Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Eye-Witness Tourist JALIN's Experience

Subject: Update at 20:15 Sep 27, 07

Hi all,

We're still safe within the compounds of this hotel where a lot of other foreigners live. The scene is very different outside. There are 3 large pickup trucks right in front packed with plain-clothed gov. thugs called Swan-ah-shin ready to do the dirty work. Several riot police and soldiers are there too. Still we could see that side street tea shops are setting up shop for the evening and hear the jingle from the sugar cane juice vendor and see pedestrians walking outside. So we decided to take a walk to see if the internet cafe was open. We crossed Bogyoke Rd. and walked through Mg Htaw Lay to Anawyahta. There were 2-3 truckloads of riot police, soldiers and ?firefighters sitting on the street blocking it right next to 2 parked fire engines. The internet cafe was closed so we bought some food and came back. People were walking past all this, some just stood and watched, some shops were still open so got some beer too. Downtown is not as deserted as some areas outside I guess. At about 1300 today Robert, Khin Sabae, her 2 friends and I went out after hearing loud chanting from the marching crowds followed not long after by some gun shots. There were thousands of people on the street. Sule was blocked off so we walked to 33rd st. We met one of Khin Sabae's friends who told us there was a young man who was shot in the thigh and bleeding heavily hiding in one building trying to get to the hospital. We followed her and met with a young man carrying this wounded person all by himself on the street. We had him laid down and I saw the entrance wound in the buttock and the exit wound in the thigh. He was a little pale (most Burmese are) but his pulse was strong and was not so fast. No visible pumping artery. We asked for a bedsheet so a couple of ppl could carry him. Someone in the crowd said he would drive him to the hospital. We put him in the taxi and the driver was so outstanding. He wove through cars, people, red lights, trishaws and everything and got us to the ER. I didn't carry my medical supplies that I bought yesterday so I couldn't do anything other than checking his pulse and reassuring him. I felt really bad about it. In the ER I was met with an ortho surgeon whom I know so he told me to split and they'll take over coz otherwise there will be questions. So I did. I went to the ICU to see if the rumors of ppl being admitted to the ICU the day before were true. I was told it wasn't by a reliable source. (that could have changed by now) There was at least one casualty who'd arrived before us to the ER. I walked my way back to the hotel. After I crossed Shwedagon Pagoda rd and Bogyoke Lan I saw riot police in full riot gear coming towards me and the crowd. There is a high fence in the center of this big ave and on my left is the Bogyoke market which is now closed off. I had no choice so I climbed over the fence and got into the market. The security guy yelled at me and told me to go back out but I ignored him and pretended I didn't understand Burmese. I walked behind the cover of huge pillars as the riot police walked passed outside the fence. They fired shots but I don't know whether they fired into the crowds or not. But no one screamed so I assumed they were warning shots. I basically was stuck there behind that pillar when someone whispered from somewhere above who told me to take the stairs which was well hidden behind the pillar. I went upstairs and got some shots and video clips. A few shopkeepers were still there and they basically helped me get a good view and get out of the market through a church which is between the hotel and the market. Ordinary ppl of Burma want the world to know what it's like to be Burmese and be in Burma and how brutal the regime is. It was an eventful and emotional day for us yet again. It's been confirmed that one Japanese journalist was killed this afternoon and some 9-10 other people. I'm telling you this so you will know this is not just some news that you see on TV in a far off place. This is real involving your friends (us) and their loved ones and you may be able to do something about it. Whatever the UN and the international community has done is neither enough nor effective. Maybe the protests outside of Burma should take place not in front of Burmese embassies but the Chinese ones. There will be more bloodshed unless China and maybe India and Russia step in. How can this be achieved?
We will stay put for now. My plan to try and go to one of the clinics this evening was obviously canceled. We might try and get out on Monday or Tuesday. Until then we'll be careful. I'm writing this from the hotel by the way.

p.s. the young man who was shot is an NLD member from South Okkalapa and the other one who carried him must have been the same too. They all look so young and yet so courageous. Broke my heart.