Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma Video: Japanese Photographer Murdered

A video aired on Japanese television this morning showed that Kenji Nagai, the 50-year-old Japanese photo-journalist who died in Rangoon yesterday (American time), was actually murdered, shot at point range by a Burmese soldier.

The video, which is also the subject of a headline in today's London Times and undoubtedly will be picked up throughout the world, is absolutely clear: Nagai, trying to photograph a group of demonstrators supporting Burma's "Saffron Revolution," is shoved violently to the ground by a soldier and shot dead at point-blank range. As the demonstrators flee, his body can be seen lying in the street, although in his last moments Nagai was still trying to take photographs.

The picture of Nagai in the street is the lead photograph this morning in both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Burma is no longer an obscure backwater, but world news.

The murder has sparked outrage in Japan, which dispatched a deputy foreign minister to Rangoon today to further investigate the circumstances. But a doctor at the Japanese Embassy in Burma has already confirmed that a bullet entered Nagai's body from the lower right side of his chest, pierced his heart and exited from his back.

Nagai, who had also covered violence in the Middle East, was said by his tearful mother today to have gone to Burma although she had begged him not to. She said her son had simply told her it was his job to go to places no one else would go to.

The Japanese journalist thus joins countless other journalists who have given their lives so that the truth about what is happening in wars, revolutions and other violent situations can get out to the rest of the world.

For 45 years now, Burma has been ruled by a brutal military junta which has killed thousands, imprisoned large numbers of people, mismanaged the economy, enriched itself and still gotten aid from uncaring, insensitive neighbors such as China and India. But for years this happened pretty much without the world having photographic evidence of the junta's depravity. One telling photograph, however, showed the daughter of the junta chief, laden with large diamonds at her wedding.

Now, the depredations are blatantly there for all to see. Thanks to modern technology, the Internet, text messaging, short wave radio, and a few foreign correspondents who made their way to Burma in defiance of a ban on foreign journalists, what has unfolded in Burmese cities since the uprising erupted Aug. 19 has become a worldwide sensation, and the world is beginning to react.

Of course, the junta knows that, and today the New York Times and CNN are publishing reports that the military has raided Internet cafes, broken a cable connection with the outside world, raided hotels where journalists have been staying, and is doing everything it can to keep the truth from getting out about the gallant efforts of the Buddhist monks and ordinary people to march in the streets and resist the crackdown the junta began three days ago. Its soldiers isolated the monasteries, in some cases just keeping the monks inside, in others, going n and beating and arresting them. It also imprisoned the heroic Nobel laureate and leader of the nation's democracy movement, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

Will it work? Maybe not. Not only are the citizens of Burma fighting back, with reports of a police station burning and the regime's curfew defied, but the junta's main ally, China, is coming under unprecedented pressure to pull the plug on the apoplectic generals. The leverage would, in part, be next year's Beijing Olympics. China has brutal neighbors in both North Korea and Burma, over which it could exertl perhaps decisive restraint, if it was willing. If it's not willing, maybe the 2008 Olympics ought to be moved somewhere else.

In the meantime, however, it is a tragedy that anyone must give up his or her life so that these thugs can remain in power. And the London Times correspondent on the scene, Kenneth Denby, reported Friday night that most demonstrators had disappeared from the streets and fear was taking over in Burma once again.

Japan itself has given some aid to the Burmese junta. Now, after Nagai's murder, it says that that policy is "under review." But review is not enough. Burma should be quarantined until the regime collapses and democracy is restored.

--

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda is carrying a report today that the former deputy defense minister of Iran, Ali Rheze Asgari, who defected to the West several months ago, provided information that led to the secretive Israeli raid Sept. 6 against a missile and nuclear facility in Syria, close to the Iraqi border.

The Kuwaiti paper also says that U.S. warplanes were in the air in Iraq near Syrian territory and were prepared to intervene in defense of the Israeli planes that carried out the reportedly successful raid had they come under attack and needed assistance.

Both President Bush and the Israeli government have been silent about many details of the raid. But it seems to show that neither the U.S. nor Israel are at all inclined to allow Iranian or North Korea nuclear technology to be exported to Syria, where it could threaten not only Israel but also U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

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