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Buddhism holds activists together

by Deborshi Chaki, CNN-IBN, Dec 05, 2007

Yangon, Myanmar -- When Nyamyo walked through the porous India- Myanmar border 12 years ago, he was just a 14-year-old, who dreamt of a better life and of future studies.

He was relieved to have left a country, where opportunities were non-existent.

However, soon that relief became a burden. His thoughts were with thousands of his countrymen, whose rights were suppressed by the junta.

“The dreams of the Burmese students have been lost for 20 years now,” says Nyamyo.

Today Nyamyo and his wife Mo Pyi manage refugee camps for people who have fled Myanmar. They help the cause of democracy in Burma clandestinely. They pray for their countrymen every day. The statue of Buddha gives them strength in their unfinished struggle.

Buddhism has become the glue that is holding the activists together in Myanmar. The biggest protests for democracy that were held recently in Myanmar were led not by students, not by politicians, but by Buddhists monks.

The western media has been reporting about overnight raids on monks, news that can't be confirmed given the clampdown on journalists. At the Shwedegon Pagoda, the oldest in Yangon, not many monks can be spotted. Most of them have gone into hiding.

"There is a difference between the past and now. None of those who led the protests have fled the country this time. They are hiding in the country and will carry on the protests,” says Ethnic Nationalities Council, Myanmar,

On the streets, life goes on as usual, under the watchful eye of the police.

But their vision is clear as they want democracy restored. On the face of it things are calm, but looks can be deceptive.

"They have no idea what is simmering underneath if they think that it is over then they are mistaken. It is going to come back again unless there is some kind of reconciliation,” says editor Myanmar Times, Daniel Long.

The junta knows it probably. May be that's why they allowed the country's media to put pro-democracy leader Aung San Su Kyi on its pages.

While such gestures by the junta may be a move away from the past, there is still no word on the fate of thousands who have gone missing during Myanmar's darkest years and perhaps there won’t be any.

And this is the dark truth that the people of Myanmar and the rest of the world will have to reconcile to.

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