By 12:30 p.m., hundreds of monks, students, and other Rangoon residents approached the police, stood in the road and began to pray. Then the soldiers and police began pulling monks from the crowd, targeting the leaders, striking both monks and ordinary people with canes. Several smoke bombs exploded and the riot police charged. The monks and others fought back with sticks and rocks. Many others ran, perhaps four or five of them bleeding from minor head wounds. A car was set alight — by the soldiers, some protesters claimed — and then there was the unmistakable crack of live ammunition: the soldiers were shooting into the air.
I am by no means an expert on the situation in Burma, but I am familiar with a sense of decency. Nonviolent protest and the idea of calm prayerful opposition don’t warrant a violent response. Praying monks do not deserve a club to the back or a rifle-butt to the head. The image of a Buddhist monk’s shaved head, red with blood simply does not compute. This is not justice.
These reports are important for the fact that the correspondents feeding the information are doing so secretly under penalty of prosecution themselves. No one can get in to tell the world about events within this region.
The details described in article sound pretty bad. Worse, though, is the fact that these few bits of information are the only thing out there. Any situation in which the governing body is driven to covering up and keeping secrets cannot be good. 1o,000 monks and civilians are silently speaking out. Will we hear? And will we listen?