The world has been horrified by graphic images of the latest crackdown by Myanmar’s military junta. But the bullets and clubs unleashed on Buddhist monks have worked. The monks have retreated, and an eerie normalcy has returned to Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar’s principal city and former capital.
That crackdown continues under cover of darkness. When the sun sets in Myanmar, fear rises. Everyone listens half awake for the dreaded knock on the door. Any night, the military’s agents can come for you, take you away, and make sure you are never heard from again.
In recent nights, the junta’s henchmen have burst into monasteries, lined up sleepy monks, and smashed their shaved heads against the walls, spattering them with blood. Scores of others, perhaps hundreds, have been carted off for interrogation, torture, or execution. The nighttime assault on a United Nations employee and her family made international news, but hundreds of less well connected Burmese have been similarly abused.
For 45 years, Myanmar’s people have been subjected to the junta’s reign of terror. My father was born in Rangoon long before the 1962 coup that brought the current regime to power. Afterwards, many of my relatives, prosperous Indian merchants who had been settled in Myanmar for generations, abandoned homes and businesses in order to save their skins as chaos enveloped the city, later renamed Yangon.