Things are dreadful in Myanmar. But you can do one small, good deed this weekend.
It seems Myanmar's illegal military junta is tightening the stranglehold on its people through long jail terms for dissidents rounded up after last year’s protests. This includes many of my brave monastic brothers. The Buddhist Channel reports that, following the sentence of Ven. Ashin Saddhamma to 19 years in prison, five other monks have been handed 6 ½ years each for “unlawful assembly, participating in illegal associations, inducing crimes against public tranquility and committing disaffection towards the state and government.” (The Buddhist Channel maintains an invaluable news archive documenting Burmese atrocities here.)
I just discovered that one incredibly brave Burmese monk (if he’s living inside Myanmar; it’s not clear -- update: I see from his bio at this site that he is in exile, probably in Sri Lanka), Ven. Ashin Mettacara, is blogging about the repression within his country. Please bookmark and read him.
He reports that the monks got off relatively easy; 23 leaders of the protests, from the pro-democracy group "88 Generation," were each slapped with 65-year sentences (of at least 60 jailed altogether) and 28-year old blogger Nay Phone Wat got 20 years for “creating public alarm” and possession of a banned video.
And just to add what will probably not be the final insult to anyone’s sense of humanity and justice, 24-year old journalist Ein Khaing Oo was just sentenced to two years in jail for publishing critical coverage of the junta’s tragically corrupt response to the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.
In a detail too perfect for fiction, Ms. Oo is being held in Insein Prison.
It seems this mass suppression of dissent is being executed to create mass intimidation before next year’s show election.
So. Your one small good deed. The U.S. Campaign for Burma is collecting signatures for a petition to be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, insisting that he put pressure on the Myanmar government to release these political prisoners. Please go sign it here.
Update II: I should have done this some time ago, but I've added a Burmese resource links section at right. What kind of world do we live in where Buddhist monks are jailed for peaceful protest? Can we change it? Yes we can.