Protests worry Burmese in isles
The small Burmese community in Hawaii may be divided by politics, but it is united in praying for peace in the troubled Southeast Asian nation.
There are about 60 families and a handful of students from Myanmar living here, local Burmese said. Myanmar is the name given to the country by the military government, although many Burmese still call it Burma.
Most have been keeping up with news of the protests and violent aftermath by following CNN and Internet news sources.
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One woman, who did not want to give her name because she still has relatives in Myanmar, said she avoids asking about the current situation when calling home because the government might be listening.
"I think we're all very cautious. We just call to say 'Hi, how are you?' We would be fools to ask because you don't know who's listening, what really is happening.
"You want to keep everybody safe and you just want to make sure they are physically OK."
University of Hawaii Burmese history professor Michael Aung Thwin said relatives have told him the protests are not as large as the last major democracy rallies in 1988, when he said the country appeared to be slipping into chaos.
"It's not as big as the press makes it look. It's confined to a small area," Aung Thwin said.
He said the protests have been characterized as a good-versus-evil struggle, but that's an oversimplification.
"Democracy is associated with anarchy. The military is associated with law and order. If people are given a choice, they will choose law and order," Aung Thwin said, saying that there is a real threat of civil war between ethnic and separatist groups in Burma.
Most of the discontent, Aung Thwin said, is over economic issues, not political freedom.
But another anonymous Burmese Hawaii resident said: "I'm hopeful that a message is delivered ... that the ones in power will recognize that the people are in need of help."
Burma, she said, is one of the richest nations in the world in natural resources, but its people are among the poorest.
While local Burmese are divided over support and opposition to the military government, they are united in the hope that the crisis ends peacefully.
Aung Thwin said both the government and the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Nobel-prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, need to talk to each other and compromise.
But he said both sides are unwilling.
"It's all or nothing. ... It's a zero-sum game. You win or you lose."
Buddhists to host vigil for Myanmar
Local Buddhists will hold a candlelight vigil tonight for people in Myanmar who have been killed or hurt during recent protests led by Buddhist monks against the country's military rulers. Supporters will gather at 7 p.m. at Magic Island to chant for peace. The vigil is sponsored by the Hawaii Association of International Buddhists, the Myanmar community in Hawaii and Vipassana Hawaii.