Monday, October 15, 2007

Cruelty of the Myanmar military

Our local paper this morning carried a statement from the military junta in Myanmar commenting on the death of the Japanese photojournalist, Kenji Nagai, in their brutal crackdown on the street protests in Yangon in the last week of September.

The story said that he had only himself to blame for his death because he entered the country on a tourist visa and not a journalist visa.

What sort of logic is that? Everyone knows that Myanmar doesn’t issue visa to journalists, so it would have been impossible for him to enter the country on a journalist visa. I have many friends who are journalists and have wanted to go to Myanmar for holidays, but their visa applications have been refused on the basis of their profession – even though they had no intention of reporting on anything there.

Are the Burmese generals saying that if he had applied for a journalist visa, it would have been refused, so he wouldn’t have been killed?

It’s disappointing that to date Japan has done nothing more than express ‘regret’ at the incident. The video footage of Nagai-san falling to the ground with his camera still in his hand, that was broadcast around the world, looked very much like he was being shot at point blank range by one of the Burmese soldiers (see Japanese news broadcast video below). And all the Japanese government can do is express ‘regret’. Japanese people are renowned for their politeness and going out of their way to avoid conflict, but this was one instance where they should have been loudly protesting.



There was also a disturbing story in the International Herald Tribune today recounting some eyewitness accounts of the brutality that was seen on the streets of Yangon. In the IHT story, one housewife who was out shopping for food on 28 September recalls:

“I saw people in the street just beaten up for no reason - just walking along the road, not even part of the protests. There was this young boy, he was alone and not shouting with the crowd or clapping. This captain came up to him, just started beating him and the boy fell on the street. Then the police pushed him into one of those trucks that were lined up to take demonstrators. As they pushed him, he fell again. Then the police took out a big stick and gave him a huge blow on the back.”

To read the full story CLICK HERE

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