Defector: Burma’s junta has executed thousands of monks

STR/AFP/Getty Images With more than a hint of smugness, folks in the West are rushing to declare Burma’s Saffron Revolution a failure. But now comes a report, via Hla Win, the defecting chief of the military junta’s intelligence operations, that thousands of monks have been executed in recent days and their bodies dumped in the jungle. ...

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STR/AFP/Getty Images

With more than a hint of smugness, folks in the West are rushing to declare Burma's Saffron Revolution a failure. But now comes a report, via Hla Win, the defecting chief of the military junta's intelligence operations, that thousands of monks have been executed in recent days and their bodies dumped in the jungle. Thousands more were reportedly taken to a stadium on the outskirts of Rangoon and beaten. Win, who is attempting to defect to Norway via Thailand, says:

Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand. I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks. They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this."

STR/AFP/Getty Images

With more than a hint of smugness, folks in the West are rushing to declare Burma’s Saffron Revolution a failure. But now comes a report, via Hla Win, the defecting chief of the military junta’s intelligence operations, that thousands of monks have been executed in recent days and their bodies dumped in the jungle. Thousands more were reportedly taken to a stadium on the outskirts of Rangoon and beaten. Win, who is attempting to defect to Norway via Thailand, says:

Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand. I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks. They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this.”

Official government figures had put the death toll at between nine and 15. Now we learn it is “several thousand.” And the junta is paying families a whopping $13 in compensation.

Will this be enough to shake the Bush administration, and the foreign-policy community’s chattering classes, from their complacency? Talking with one foreign-policy type last Friday, he summed up for me what is a sad conventional wisdom emerging in Washington: “What can we do?”

What can we do? For one thing, let’s stop the pretending that the U.S. response so far has been anything but pathetic. The Wall Street Journal this morning refers to the “aggressive American response to the Myanmar crisis.” Hmm, they must be talking about First Lady Laura Bush’s interview with the Voice of America, which is about the sum total of the American response thus far. After that, Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt has a few other ideas:

Tell China that, as far as the United States is concerned, it can have its Olympic Games or it can have its regime in Burma. It can’t have both…. If a threat to those Games — delivered privately, if that would be most effective, with no loss of face — could help tip the balance, then let the Games not begin. Some things matter more.”

argued last week that China is unlikely to be shamed, by use of the Olympic card, into taking meaningful action on Burma. But Hiatt is right. If there’s even a remote possibility that such pressure could help, then a U.S. threat to withdraw from the games should be made. The Bush Administration is reportedly looking into other, unnamed, options. Let’s hope so. Because if 100,000 people were marching the streets of Baghdad or Riyadh, or if thousands of Catholic priests were lying dead in Vatican City, you can bet there would have been a little bit more action by now.

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