Help
BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 16:17 GMT
Business as usual inside Burma?
By Sue Lloyd-Roberts
Special Correspondent, BBC News

Street children in Burma
Despite the military's riches many in Burma live in poverty

The tourists have returned, the dead have been buried and the debris and blood cleared away from the temples and monasteries where the demonstrations began two months ago.

The government say it's business as usual in Burma. People I spoke to disagree.

Most of the protest leaders have either fled abroad or are in prison. I met "Number One", as they call him in Rangoon, at a secret location.

He worked as a liaison contact between the monks and the civilian population when tens of thousands took to the streets in September. He has not dared return home since the crackdown in which the government claim 15 people were killed.

"We have now counted the dead", he says, "there were 30 monks and 70 civilians killed. People are very afraid but people are also angry. We are waiting to see what the international community does for Burma before we organise a popular uprising again."

So far, they have been disappointed.

'Smart sanctions'

The UN's Ibrahim Gambari met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice
UN envoy Mr Gambari and Aung San Suu Kyi
The UN Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has visited Burma four times. Although he has met with generals in the government, he has not yet met the country's leader, General Than Shwe.

Political prisoners have been released and there have been talks about talks with Burma's only democratically elected opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. But no more.

America and the European Union are working on new sanctions which would ban imports of Burmese timber and precious stones.

The junta earns hundreds of millions of pounds a year from the country's vast natural resources in foreign currency, with which they buy the weapons to put down their people.

But will these so-called "smart sanctions" work?

Jewellery exports

Posing as an importer of jewels into Europe and with a hidden camera, I called on jewellery export businesses in Rangoon.

"It is a bit difficult at the moment", one marketing manager of a joint venture jewellery enterprise with Thailand admitted, because of "political problems".

But, he assured me, there is a way round. He told me that I had to pay the money into his bank account in Singapore and he would send the gems from Thailand or Singapore.

Gem dealer in Rangoon
Rangoon Gem dealer explains how he gets around export "problems"
"But what about the paperwork?", I asked. "Will it say that the jewellery comes from Burma?" "No need", he assured me. "I shall arrange everything".

"Selective sanctions won't work", said Number One. "It must be all countries against the one. Only then will the generals listen".

Future protests

Over half Burma's foreign currency earnings come from the countries of Asean whose leaders are meeting in Singapore this week and no one is expecting them to agree to the kind of action against Burma that the democracy movement within the country want.

Protest leaders say there will be no option but to demonstrate again, and face the consequences.

"How many more monks have to go to prison?" asks one monk who led the protest from his monastery and is now living in hiding in Thailand.

"How many more monks must die before we get democracy in Burma?"


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific