The Complexity of Burma

The "News Currents," April 9, gives a disturbing kernel of news leaking out of Burma: "Refugees fleeing Burma have accused Burmese troops of opening fire on Muslims at prayer in a village mosque in western Arakan state, killing at least 200 people...."

Burma, now called Myanmar by the military junta, is an almost forgotten country in Southeast Asia. News from there is seldom reported in United States newspapers. In October and December the world spotlight focused for a moment on Burma when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Under house arrest since July 1989, this charismatic daughter of Burma's "George Washington" has been incommunicado since August 1990. No one is allowed to see her.

In the article "Region Protests Burma Crackdown," March 17, the author reveals that we learn what goes on in Burma only as events inside boil out over the borders. The 150,000 Muslim Arakanese (Rohingya) refugees now in Bangladesh give us a glimpse of the internal happenings in Burma - stories of torture, rape, and destruction by the tatmadaw (Army).

The Karens, refugees on the eastern side of Burma in Thailand, have been suffering nearly four decades in a no-win, decimating civil war. The Opinion page article "Forests and People - Victims in Burma," April 6, succinctly shows how the US, Japan, and the Western nations aid and abet the Burmese military junta with our voracious appetite for teak - teak at any price.

The $1.4 billion Burmese arms deal with China as well as with Poland and Yugoslavia could not be realized without present American policy.

Admittedly, the Burma situation is complex, but we Americans cannot use naivete as an excuse for failing to understand that the Burmese military junta spends 40 percent of its national budget on armaments to be used against its own people. Burma has no external enemies. By our ignorance and inaction, we become accomplices with the tatmadaw in the persecution of the people of Burma. Virginia Davis, Coral Gables, Fla.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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