As we all know (if you read the news at all) that there is a revolution in progress in Burma. Thousands of people, led by monks, marched in the streets to protest the current regime and call for democratic reform. It isn’t going well.
The reports of monks beaten to death are not even argued by the Burmese government. Additional (unconfirmed) reports are telling the story of thousands of executed protesters, cremation of live persons, and a very strong crackdown of the dissent. It is a tragic situation for the people of Burma but the implications for the world could be much greater.
Burma’s crackdown will be a modern example for authoritarian governments everywhere. If the heavy handed response is successful, it will be a dangerous lesson for many. Brutal suppression works. If the crackdown is unsuccessful and the state is transformed to a democracy in the next few years, it provides another lesson for governments. Don’t let protests grow so big and don’t allow religious groups freedom to organize movements.
This is exactly what Beijing will be watching for as the crisis unfolds. We can expect Chinese religious movements to pay the price. Beijing’s crackdown on dissenting groups may become much harsher in the near future to ensure this type revolt (like Tienanmen) does not happen again.
If the revolt is successful, Beijing also has to worry about Taiwan being encouraged to follow suit and push harder for independence. We China’s response is likely to be equally aggressive and might force a US response. Bad for everybody.
One lesson that all authoritarian governments are getting right now is that they can stomp all over their population and the world will just standby. Hopefully, free nations in the world will not let this lesson last too long and will find a way to stop the oppression of the Burmese people.