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Vai trò ẩn giấu của Trung Quốc trong cuộc đàn áp ở Myanmar

- The Sunday Times, 30.09.2007 — published 01/10/2007 16:31, cập nhật lần cuối 01/10/2007 16:31
Để bạn đọc theo sát tình hình Myanmar, chúng tôi dưới thiệu dưới đây toàn văn (tiếng Anh) bài báo The Sunday Times tường thuật một cách sinh động và trung thực diễn biến phong trào đòi dân sinh và dân chủ của các nhà sư, rồi của nhân dân Myanmar trong tháng 9, cuộc đàn áp đẫm máu tiếp theo, và vai trò ẩn giấu của Trung Quốc trong cuộc đàn áp này.

Đọc báo nước ngoài

Vai trò bí mật của Trung Quốc
trong cuộc đàn áp ở Myanmar

Để bạn đọc theo sát tình hình Myanmar, chúng tôi dưới thiệu dưới đây toàn văn (tiếng Anh) bài báo ngày 30.9.2007. Bài báo tường thuật một cách sinh động và trung thực diễn biến phong trào đòi dân sinh và dân chủ của các nhà sư, rồi của nhân dân Myanmar trong tháng 9, cuộc đàn áp đẫm máu tiếp theo, và vai trò ẩn giấu của Trung Quốc trong cuộc đàn áp này. Độc giả không quen tiếng Anh có thể tham khảo bản tin tiếng Việt của đài BBC.

Junta crushes Buddha's army

For a few days freedom seemed to be flickering to life in Burma after 45 years of military rule. Then came the crackdown – with secret Chinese help. Diplomats now hold no hope for democracy there

It became a ritual of defiance and death. At first there were prayers and peaceful chanting of the sacred Buddhist sutras. Monks walked with grave and deliberate steps, halted, squatted and prayed again.

The men in uniform – the first rank with riot shields, the second and third with rifles – stared them down. A crowd of civilians, exhilarated by the challenge, howled their support, clustering around the holy men as if their robes could give magical protection.

Then came a shouted command over loudhailers: “Clear the road!” A few slipped away from the fringes of the crowd and ran down narrow side-streets crammed with food stalls. The rest held firm, shouting insults and slogans.

The first short, sharp cracks could have come from teargas guns. But there was no doubt about the next volleys. After days of protest in Rangoon, the military were firing live rounds.

At first, some whistled overhead. Then people tumbled in the frantic crowd, which scattered like a flock of frightened birds, their flight impeded by the clinging longyi sarongs worn by most young Burmese men.

The soldiers advanced at a charge. Just a few yards from a group of foreign reporters who were watching from the door of the Traders hotel, a Japanese photographer, Kenji Nagai, fell back on the road, holding up his camera in a mute gesture to shield himself as a soldier rushed forward.

The killing of Nagai, 50, who was on assignment for a Tokyo agency, was captured on camera and became an image that outraged Japan, one of Burma’s main aid donors and investors.

But his death on Thursday was just one of many violent moments in the past week that caught the convulsions of Burma as its people fought for freedom. There was the nine-year-old girl, looking up as rescuers found a gaping hole in her stomach. The tonsured monk drenched in blood, assisted by shocked and reverent passers-by.

For the Burmese junta and its principal apologists and arms suppliers – China, India and Russia – it was a week of international shame.

The pictures went around the world within hours. Eager young Burmese downloaded their data and sent it out from internet cafes and private computers. Bloggers told of what they saw and how they felt.

Their cries of pain and rage found an echo chamber at the United Nations in New York, where world leaders had gathered for the annual general assembly.

Burma, the subject of countless well-meaning but fruitless resolutions and missions over two decades, suddenly went to the top of the agenda.

This time, proclaimed the western powers, it would be different. Gordon Brown said there would be no impunity for dictators. George W Bush announced new financial sanctions aimed at the generals and their shopaholic wives.

Halfway around the world their words inspired hope on the streets. But the generals did not react. “Why would it be different this time for them?” asked a diplomat in Rangoon.

THE spark that set off a chain reaction all the way to Manhattan had its origins in Pakokku, a sleepy riverside town on Burma’s sweltering central plain. Foreign travellers may glimpse it from the luxurious cruise vessels operated by Orient-Express as they glide down the Irrawaddy.

There are four monasteries in the town, full of wizened elders and shaven-headed youths undergoing a period of monasticism before they enter adulthood. Every young man in Burma is expected to perform such duties, earning merit for their families.

So Pakokku’s monks reacted like most people in Burma when the regime abruptly raised the price of fuel. That pushed up the price of rice, the Burmese staple. Their own families were struggling.

On September 5, about 500 monks in their maroon robes processed through Pakokku’s muddy streets, watched warily by police and hired goons. People applauded; but then there were scuffles and three monks were beaten severely.

Shocked, the monks retreated into their sacred compounds, nursed their bruises, contemplated the Buddha and meditated on their next moves.

The following day 13 high-ranking officers and officials drove up to the monastery of Maha Visutarama to lay down the law. A furious crowd blocked them inside for six hours and three of their cars were burnt. Relenting, the monks let them go. But a psychological victory had been won.

Hastening to Pakokku four days later, Brigadier-General Thura Myint Maung, in charge of the junta’s religious affairs ministry, presented the abbot with new robes and talked about soothing tensions.

It was too late for that. Monks all over Burma began to march. At first they were in their dozens, then in their hundreds. On September 20, 1,000 came out from the Shwedagon, the pagoda in Rangoon that Rudyard Kipling called “a golden mystery”.

Sloshing solemnly through the monsoon-drenched streets, they attracted a ring of young men who joined hands around them as guardians.

Emboldened by the lack of violence, hundreds more followed the crowd. Many wept and prostrated themselves before the monks.

Then, last Saturday afternoon, a junior officer at the barricades outside Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside home in Rangoon made a fateful decision.

A column of monks halted at the barrier. The officer hesitated and made a call. The barriers were dragged aside and the monks stepped forward to pray with the world’s most famous political prisoner.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 12 out of the past 18 years in her lonely battle with the military. The victor in Burma’s 1990 election, she was last seen publicly in 2003.

To the astonishment and ecstasy of the young monks, the metal door to her garden swung open.

Dressed in yellow, her eyes glistening, the woman who remains the incarnation of Burma’s hopes for democracy stood in prayer.

Just a few words were exchanged, a moment of greeting. Then the monks moved on. But mobile phones and small cameras had captured the moment. Burma was electrified by the news. IT now appears likely that Than Shwe, the 74-year-old military dictator, and his cohorts were unaware of the decision to let the monks pass. Immured in their new capital, Naypyidaw, 370 miles north of Rangoon, they are out of touch.

Than Shwe is sick and irritable. He is convalescing after surgery in Singapore for cancer, is henpecked by his grasping wife and tends to listen only to flatterers. Bad news does not reach him easily. His personal hatred for “that woman”, as he calls Suu Kyi, is such that he once turned on his heel and left when a foreign ambassador mentioned her name in his presence. It also led to the fall of his rival, Khin Nyunt, the smooth-talking head of military intelligence, who ran a state-within-a-state and had risen to be prime minister.

Khin Nyunt extended an olive branch to Suu Kyi with promises of dialogue and compromise. “In the end, she didn’t take the risk and Khin Nyunt did,” explained a western ambassador to Rangoon who has now left Burma.

“But he couldn’t deliver her and ultimately he couldn’t deliver anything to Than Shwe except more sanctions from the West. We have to ask ourselves some hard questions about whether we got that right.”

Than Shwe put Khin Nyunt and his family on a show trial for corruption in 2005. Talk of political dialogue stopped. Nobody mentioned “that woman”.

So the news last weekend of her miraculous appearance must have infuriated Than Shwe as much as it exhilarated millions of Burmese. It was a turning point. The next morning, last Sunday, demonstrators swarmed through the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay shouting her name. The monk’s complaints had ballooned into the regime’s worst nightmare – mass protests for democracy and freedom.

There had been nothing like it since the last mass protests in 1988, which ended in a bloodbath.

But the junta stayed its hand. “It was the most electric atmosphere,” said a British woman who lives in Rangoon. “There was this terrific air of tension as if something was about to break.”

Diplomatic and political pressure on the regime was piling up. Mark Canning, the British ambassador, warned the government against violence. The head of the UN in Burma, Charles Petrie, a veteran of the Rwanda genocide, gave a lower-key message: if the junta would consent to dialogue, the UN would send an envoy to help.

More persuasive were unpublicised talks between the junta and the Chinese ambassador, reinforced by confidential messages sent from Tang Jiax-uan, the experienced diplomatic fixer entrusted by Beijing with its interests in Burma.

These are enormous. Chinese businesses have, in effect, colonised the property markets in Burma’s cities, stripped the forests, excavated the gems, hauled off the minerals and built roads, ports and airstrips to serve China’s hunger for resources and commerce.

Stepping into the void left by European and American firms, most of whom observe the sanctions, the Chinese have become the new masters of Burma. They sell the weapons, organise the trade and provide the credit lines that keep the generals in business.

Fantastic fortunes have been made by Chinese business-men. Exile groups allege huge payoffs have gone to both Burmese and Chinese officials. The pink lights of karaoke parlours and dens of prostitution catering to a vulgar class of new rich thrive adjacent to the sacred shrines of Burmese Buddhism.

At the same time, China has provided cover for Burma at the UN under the straight-faced affirmation that it is Beijing’s policy to veto interference in the internal affairs of other nations. THE junta’s crackdown was planned and executed on the Chinese model, using stealth, intimidation, psychological shock tactics and the selective use of lethal force. Not for the junta, this time, the crude massacres in the streets of 1988. It moved step by step.

Major-General Khin Law, whose sinister reputation has enhanced his power at the head of the command for central Burma, was seen organising troops at the university and monasteries in Mandalay.

The gloves came off on Wednesday afternoon. Barricades went up in Rangoon; riot police lined key streets around the pagodas; behind them, automatic rifles at the ready, stood Than Shwe’s soldiers.

As crowds of monks and civilians gathered near the Shwedagon pagoda, a plainclothes thug screamed: “Do you want death? If you want death, try walking down this street.”

When the monks began to march, mayhem broke out. Teargas erupted and the first shots crackled. Monks ran back and forth, waving flags, urging the crowd to stand together. Some civilians hurled stones at the security forces, who waded in with clubs.

According to witnesses, two monks were killed and three died later in hospital. Women wept on the sides of the roads as young, bruised monks were driven away.

Monks who managed to break away and reach the Sule pagoda in the city centre were cheered by onlookers. Some admirers massaged their feet.

Then a six-truck convoy roared straight at the crowd on the bridge leading down to the Sule pagoda. As it passed, gunfire ripped through the air.

People threw themselves on the ground, clinging to each other. A terrified human tide swept back up the street. One protester shouted in disbelief: “A kid has been shot. I saw a girl shot.”

The gunfire intensified and the crowd scattered – but returned to jeer the soldiers.

Overnight, pagodas were raided, monks were beaten and dragged away. Next morning, blood flowed again. Officially, nine died; the real number is not known. By yesterday, only a few hundred brave protesters dared take to the streets and they were swiftly arrested.

The crackdown strategy came straight from a Chinese textbook. The political lesson, said diplomats in Rangoon, is that China is bound up with the regime’s crackdown far more intimately than its public pieties pretend. That makes it hard to see how the UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who flew into Rangoon yesterday, stands any chance of progress.

“He has no leverage to exert on them and no exit strategy to offer them,” said an official familiar with UN negotiations.

“The international community has been too slow off the mark,” agreed a European diplomat in Rangoon. “The regime think they can hold it down – maybe for another 20 years. We are pessimistic.”

Three reporters in Rangoon contributed to this story but their names are being withheld to protect them from reprisals by the Burmese authorities

China’s role

Diplomatic sources with access to military intelligence reports have disclosed that the United States and Britain learnt earlier this year of an intense programme of training and cooperation between Burma and China that focused on counterinsurgency and the suppression of street protests.

Diplomatic sources identified the key liaison man as Colonel Fen Lian Feng, a specialist in psychological warfare and counter-subversion who is stationed at the Chinese embassy in Rangoon.

Fen has overseen the supply of automatic weapons that fire rubber-coated steel bullets, new communications gear, teargas and other chemical agents used in crowd control. He has also given the Burmese access to tactical training in confronting crowds using methods taught by the PLA and China’s internal security forces.

The classic doctrine is to get informers into the movement, allow the demonstrations to proceed, break them up with the sudden use of force, identify and arrest the ringleaders and then clamp down hard to seize data, block information and stop people gathering again.

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