The insurgency in Thailand’s largely Muslim south is now four years old, and 2007 was the bloodiest yet. 792 people were killed last year. 2776 have been killed since the conflict began. The violence affects both Muslims and Buddhists:

On Monday, a Buddhist sweet vendor was taken to hospital in Yala after being shot three times in the torso by a gunman riding on a motorcycle, an attack typical of insurgents who have never identified themselves of made their aims public. On Sunday, a 30-year-old Muslim teacher was shot dead while walking home from evening prayers, police said.

The Burmese junta has already repressed Buddhist monks. Now they are working on comedians:

One of the jokes broadcast at a fair in a park in Rangoon that went down well with the public focused on the five enemies of mankind. They are water, fire, the king, the thief and a person who bears ill will towards another. On that day, a comedian added his own twist, saying: ‘’Now we have only three enemies left, since the king, the thief and the one who bears ill will towards another are the same.’’ The junta, however, has launched a predictable counter strike to crush the spread of laughter. Permission for a public show on Jan. 3 featuring a troupe of comedians was withdrawn. This performance, which was to have been held at the Kan Taw Gyi park, had already been advertised and tickets had been printed.

Nicholas Burms in the Washington Post says it is now decision time for Burma:

Three months have passed since the world called on Burma’s dictators, Gens. Than Shwe and Maung Aye, to end their brutal crackdown on tens of thousands of peaceful monks and other demonstrators and begin a genuine dialogue with Burma’s democratic and ethnic minority leaders — with the goal of a transition to democracy. The time has come for them to act.

The junta’s early steps, such as appointing a liaison for Aun San Suu Kyi, have slowed, stopped, and even moved backward as the wandering attention of the world moves elsewhere. And with Americans now fixated on the presidential primaries, Burma will find its way onto fewer and fewer headlines. Zen is Organized. Be more Zen in ’08. Zen is Clean. Zone out with a bit of Zen cleansing. Zen is Cute. Check out the Bodhi Tree onesies! And meditation in the workplace with Andy Puddicombe.

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