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Refugee Monks: "The struggle will go on"

By Luis Ramirez, VOA, October 8, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand -- Last month, Burma's military government crushed peaceful demonstrations calling for political reforms by ordering troops to fire on protesters. Troops also raided monasteries and took into detention hundreds, possibly thousands of the Buddhist monks who had led the protests.

<< An anonymous Buddhist monk explains recent events in Burma -- from the relative safety near the border with Thailand

Scores of monks, however, have fled through rugged jungles to cross the border into Thailand. There, some met with VOA correspondent Luis Ramirez, to say they will continue to seek change and justice in a country that has been ruled by generals for more than 40 years.

"The struggle will go on,” he told us.” Now, the people are re-energizing." This monk fled after taking part in protests in Rangoon. He and others made their way to a remote location just inside Thailand.

A calm river scene along the border gives no hint of what happened across Burma a few weeks ago:  A revolution -- that some here say has been all but smashed. 

Others say it is just beginning.

An unidentified monk explained his feelings. "I teach other monks at my monastery. I am a teacher.  I have a responsibility to carry on.  Some monks are missing and I have to go back to search for them, and carry on the struggle."

Risking deportation from Thailand, they are here gathering resources, seeking alms, before heading home to continue their peaceful bid for change. Traffic at the border is normal - the usual merchants coming across.  The huge influx of refugees from Burma that some expected after the crackdown is not happening.

A member of the Burmese parliament, which was elected in 1990 but blocked from taking office, also recently fled because, he says, the time has come for change. U Tun Win, elected from Arakan State, said, "My party has been working inside for democracy and human rights for 17 years and nothing can be done in there.  I want to see what can be done from the outside."

Like Burma's other neighbors, Thailand's government has been largely quiet about the crackdown, but those on the streets have not.  Demonstrations have become regular in Bangkok with exiled Burmese and sympathetic Thais calling for justice.

Justice, says one monk, will come for those in the Burmese military who are responsible for the violence. "In the Buddhist belief, because of their actions, they will go to hell."

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