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Burma In The Shadow Of The Olympics

In less than an hour, the 8th of August, 2008, will dawn.

This is the day when the People's Republic of China will host the Olympic Games – a carnival for amateur sportsmen who gather together to create harmony and goodwill in sports and for universal peace.

These are worthy pursuits for the amateurs – a word that significantly comes from the Latin word for love.

The PRC and its leaders must be congratulated for leaving no stone unturned in hosting this carnival for humanitarian love. It was only in 1972 when the PRC was admitted as a member of the family of nations and took its rightful place in the United Nations that was formed after World War II.

From its inception in 1949, its fortunes were dogged by the Korean War in 1950 that resulted in the country claiming about a quarter of the world's population being ostracized by almost all nation-states. This means that the PRC has come a long way since the days of its victory over the Koumintang-led Republic of China in October 1949.

On the same day that we celebrate this PRC outburst for love in hosting the Olympics, we must also be mindful that the day marks the 20th year of Myanmar (or Burma) rule by military junta.

It has been 20 years since they seized power in a coup d'etat on 8 Aug. 1988, after the National League for Democracy led by the then 43-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi won democratic elections in that normally sedate country.

Calls from all over the world, including ASEAN, for the release of 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate daughter of Burmese freedom fighter General Aung San, have gone unheeded.

General Aung San, the son of a lawyer, who left his own law studies for a political career, was assassinated by his political rivals on July 19, 1947, at the age of 32.

General Aung San is still loved and revered in Burma, as can be seen from the use of his photographs when the Burmese monks staged their public demonstrations some months back.

The Burmese love for General Aung San, more than 60 years after his untimely demise, is as great as, if not greater than the love that the Olympics Torch signifies.

It is this love, this pursuit of harmony and goodwill in sports and this "amateurish" quest for universal peace that was disrupted when certain Frenchmen disrupted the torch run that foreshadowed the Olympics today.

Ironically, it was a Frenchman called Pierre de Courbertin, who was born as heir to Baron Charles Louis Fredy de Courbertin on Jan 1, 1863, who re-ignited the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Pierre, a one-time law student, was a product of the School of Liberal and Political Sciences.

Pierre saw the benefit in building a robust and rugged people through the emphasis on sports rather than in the military barracks. That is probably why, the Olympics Games, which is today held every four years, emphasizes the importance of taking part rather than winning. It emphasizes on the "how" of taking part rather than the "what" of winning laurels.

All this is so very applicable in the Myanmar of today. Members of the Burmese junta could not have acted out of love when they used naked force to smash the public demonstration of the Buddhist monks, many of whom my Burmese friends say are still incarcerated and tortured.

Many of these Burmese monks have paid with their lives for leading the public demonstration. Assuming that the members of the Burmese junta know what the Olympian spirit is, by using force and coercion against the very people who they are supposed to protect against foreign invasion, they have emphasised the victory more than the participation.

Viewed in whichever way, this use of naked military force upon an unarmed and peaceful public demonstration led by the Buddhist monks certainly runs counter to the spirit of the Olympics. The Olympics celebrates life. The Burmese junta demands death to perpetuate itself. (By STEPHEN TAN BAN CHENG/ MySinchew)

MySinchew 2008.08.08


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