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'I can't erase that vision ... it haunts me'

The Guardian, March 7 2008

Jakarta, Indonesia -- Awbata, a 30-year-old monk, fled Rangoon after witnessing the security forces' brutality at the height of the uprising. He went into hiding, protected by villagers from army arrest sweeps, then fled to Thailand and on to Sri Lanka, where he is studying. Here is his account:

"I saw three monks shot down on the south side of Shwedagon Pagoda. When one monk fell, the police and soldiers stomped on his head with their boots. The others, one of whom had also fallen, were beaten with batons ... they were not moving on the ground. They were thrown into the back of a military truck and taken away. I don't know whether they're alive or dead.

"I had been asked to become one of the leaders of the monks' protests just a few days earlier.

"I accepted because I couldn't bear the thought of the people suffering every day, deprived of their human right to freedom.

"But when I saw the monks beaten I couldn't stop the tears falling. I could do nothing. And since the soldiers had started shooting I was afraid they'd turn their guns on me too, so I fled. Even now I've not been able to erase that vision from my mind. It haunts me still, no matter how many tears I shed.

"That's why I'm asking the international community to stop countries selling arms to Burma. As long as the military has arms that they don't need for fighting other countries they will use them against the people. And while they have arms the people will fear for their lives."

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