wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08CHIANGMAI24 2008-02-08 09:41:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Chiang Mai
Cable title:  

RECENTLY ARRIVED BURMESE MONKS TELL THEIR STORY

Tags:   PREF PREL PGOV PHUM BM TH 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO2846
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0024/01 0390941
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 080941Z FEB 08
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0672
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0039
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0027
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0728
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000024 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

GENEVA FOR RMA
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, IO, H AND DRL
STATE PLEASE PASS HFAC (YEO, RICHARDSON)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/8/2018
TAGS: PREF PREL PGOV PHUM BM TH
SUBJECT: RECENTLY ARRIVED BURMESE MONKS TELL THEIR STORY

REF: A. CHIANG MAI 10 (STAFFDEL YEO)

B. 07 CHIANG MAI 179 (REFUGEES BEMOAN EXILES)

CHIANG MAI 00000024 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: Alex Barrasso, Chief, Pol/ECON, CG Chiang Mai.
REASON: 1.4 (d)

--------------
Summary
--------------



1. (C) The demonstrations in Burma in August and September 2007
were spontaneous and organized mainly from inside the country,
according to several participants who recently migrated to
Thailand. Many monks were detained and sent to labor camps,
they told StaffDel Yeo and visiting Rangoon PolOff in separate
meetings. When the right spark is lit, demonstrations will
begin again, they said. Their account confirms what we have
believed all along regarding the minimal role exile groups in
Thailand and elsewhere played in planning the demonstrations.
End Summary.



2. (C) On January 5 and 6, StaffDel Yeo met separately with
three monks who actively participated in the August-September
demonstrations, and a group of six other participants. We met
the same individuals on January 7 with a visiting Rangoon
PolOff. In all four meetings, we covered several topics ranging
from sanctions, to the role of the monks in the demonstrations,
to their experiences hiding in Burma and crossing into Thailand.




--------------------------


Demonstrations Spontaneous


--------------------------





3. (C) Though monks in Rangoon had written a letter that became
public on September 14, 2007, saying they would begin
demonstrating on September 18 if the Burmese Government did not
rescind the fuel price hikes, the monks told us that they had
not organized particular demonstration routes beforehand.
Planning had begun in response to the Pakkoku incident on
September 7-8, they said, via messages passed by walking from
one monastery to another. It was agreed that monks who wanted
to participate should meet at the Shwedegan Pagoda daily at
11:00 AM. According to U Kovida (the monk who led the
demonstration past Aung San Suu Kyi's residence, and whose
Maggin Monastery was raided and forcibly closed by authorities),
once monks assembled at the pagoda, they would pray for 30-60
minutes, and leaders would choose a marching route depending on
what roads were open on that particular day. Another monk, U
Aganya, said the monks leading demonstrations did not have
contact with outside groups. The organization of the
demonstrations in Pakkoku was similar, they said, with one to
two monks walking from monastery to monastery delivering
messages, and a committee of about five monks carrying out
planning.



4. (C) The monks said there is widespread anger and discontent
with the military government. They asserted they knew economic
conditions were bad because they received very few and only
small donations as compared to previous years. People
nationwide, they said, constantly grumble about their
impoverished conditions. There will be more demonstrations,
they opined, speculating that future demonstrations would be
slow to materialize due to participants' fear of repression, as
occurred throughout Burma in the wake of the August-September
protests. A journalist who recently crossed into Thailand
agreed, saying the people are just waiting for a spark to rise
up again. Another reason demonstrators may be reluctant to
protest, he said, is that many hope UN Envoy Gambari's repeated
visits will actually lead to some positive change, and they do
not want to short-circuit that process by participating in
demonstrations.



5. (C) In August and September, the monks said they played a
leading role in the demonstrations, with the general public
sitting it out first before becoming more active. The number of
demonstrators reached a peak of 300,000 on September 24
according to Monk Ashin Csitarnanda. According to U Kovida, the
day he led the demonstration past ASSK's house, approximately
2,000 monks participated. Public participation in the
demonstrations grew by the day, but the public always let the
monks take the lead. One monk said they were happy to do so

CHIANG MAI 00000024 002.2 OF 002


because they believed their status would prevent them from being
shot.



--------------------------


The Authorities' Brutal Tactics


--------------------------





6. (C) Though the fate of many of the monks who participated in
the demonstrations remains unknown, the monks we met with firmly
believe their colleagues were taken to labor camps. According
to U Kovida, as many as 3,000 monks may have been detained in
Rangoon alone. Our interlocutors estimate that less than half
the monks who were in Rangoon before the demonstrations still
remain there, most of them young ones. One monk told us that
during the raid on his monastery, the 84-year old senior monk
was among those shoved onto trucks and taken away. He also said
that when the regime found out that some monks wounded during
the demonstrations were being cared for at hospitals, soldiers
stormed them, broke down the doors to their rooms, and took them
away. U Kovida further alleged that some soldiers who shot at
monks in Rangoon had been drugged with methamphetamines to
dehumanize them.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) Though some exile groups in Thailand or elsewhere may
have provided communications equipment to members of the
pro-democracy movement inside Burma, and others have provided
training on concepts such as non-violent political defiance, our
encounters with these new arrivals did not yield any evidence
that these exiles played an active role in organizing the
August-September demonstrations. It would be helpful if recent
arrivals to Thailand could persuade the existing exile community
to unite in order to better support any future protests.



8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Rangoon.
MORROW