Through Myanmar Darkly
By CHARLES LONDON
Published: October 21, 2007
By that rainy Saturday, my last day in the country, I couldn’t help but follow the three young monks as they wove through the downtown crowds. I saw another group hop off a bus, sloshing through puddles, also walking intently to Sule Pagoda. I noticed a crowd forming outside the temple. I joined it. Behind me, the police at City Hall unlocked the barbed-wire gate there. They started the engine of a jeep, but no one in the crowd took notice.--Charles London, a former research associate for Refugees International, is the author of “One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War.”
Suddenly, 500 monks emerged in rows four across. They carried flags and overturned alms bowls. When the first group stopped and chanted a prayer, some people in the crowd dared to clap. It was timid at first, but as more monks emerged to begin their protest, the clapping grew louder until the whole crowd seemed overcome by it. A Burmese man leaned toward me. “They have never done this before,” he said. “They clap for freedom.” The faces in the crowd were excited, part bliss, part terror.