By: Margunn Aartun 2007
Is this the beginning of an end? The end of an era? The end of the tyrannic dictatorship in Myanmar ?
The munks have taken to the streets. They are demonstrating in their thousands. Silently they march to show their contempt for their government. Down with the evil forces they silently chants. The munks in orange demand a change. Pictures reach the world from a small TV station (a radio and TV station in opposittion to the military regime) placed in the backstreets of Oslo in Norway. Free Myanmar from being supressed.
It is overwhelming to see thousands of munks walk in the streets in Mandaly, in Bagan, Yangoon and in Inly Lake district. The same street I walked some months ago. These streets that are so dark and silent at night as the electristity is working at odd hours and are never on in the nights.
In Mandaly the temples are not silent now. It is overwhelming to see the munks sit down and silently pray and meditate. To see them walk the streets; these hot dusty streets of the golden land west off Thailand . To see the locals bow their heads in respect. Over 10 000 munks marched these streets the last days. A silent clear and continoues line in orange. If one circled above these streets in a helicopter I could imagine a line of orange that cuts through the landscape and tell everyone that watches there is a divided community present.
It is a peaceful demonstration. Unique. The government does nothing.
It is unique. It is different.
Beautiful stunning Myanmar that keeps her secrets so well. A land with the greenest hills; covered with temples of gold. Enchantning Schwedagon in Yangoon (Rangoon) that might be the most extravanagant and ovewhelming tribute to Buddha and buddhismen in the entire world. Myanmar , a country with warm and welcoming people; where the locals great the pantspeople welcome. (When the English entered Burma in the 19th Century they came in pants, and white people are therefore refered to the pantspeople. The english also brought football with them.The burmese were once the best in Asia in football, but not anymore).
So many things have been supressed in this mysterious land between Thailand , China , India and Bangladesh .
Burmese people have so many secrets and so many stories to tell if we want to listen and if they dare to tell. The people are so diverse. From the intellegent and strong Karen people to the tribes hidden in the jungle who have rituals and traditions we are not yet sure about. A country filled with colourful people who suffer. People on the run from the soldiers and from the enemy. On a run to a better life. A country were tribes lived side by side, yet totally seperate.
Their elected leader has since she won with 85% in 1989 more or less been in house arrest. Aung San Kuu Kyi is the peoples charismatic and loyal pro-democrazy spokesman. Her father has a strong history with the people of Myanmar, and Kuu Kyi herself spent most of her life outside Myanmar. She got her education at Oxford in England were she met her husband and married. She returned to Myanmar in 1988 to her mothers deathbed, and saw a country in chaos; she then vowed to follow in her fathers footstep and her life was never the same. She remains faithful to her people. Remains faithful to the cause. She remains in Myanmar and refuses to give up her hope for a better future for her country. She refuses to get freedom in exchange of exile. She has sacrified a lot and has never seen her husband again; he died some years ago from cancer. They did not let him enter Myanmar , and she refused to leave in fear of never being allowed to return.
Aung San Kuu Kyi begged tourists to not visit; cause all the money they spent would end up in the hands of the military and the generals. It would enable them to buy more guns and weapons and to supress the people more. She now tells us to enter this magnificent country; but to be responsible tourists and leave money with the locals and refrain from using government owned businesses.
Some days ago the munks marched past her house. In respect. In solidarity. The government did nothing. It is unique. I can imagine what this stunning woman must have felt when she saw them march past her house and pay her respect.
Is this the end of the government in Myanmar ? This country that has so many restrictions on what the people can say and do. Protests like this have always been met with police and soldiers and blood would be spilled. Thousands of arrests would be made. Tourists would be turned away. Even today tourists must be careful; what to say and ask and where to go. The restriction for tourists are many; there are no banks, no ATM’s, we must pay more than locals for everything. Our moves are followed carefully.
I was in Mynmar in May. I love the country. I love the people. I love their history. I have read books about Myanmar recently and I am intrigued. In 2003 I visited refugee camps in Thailand , as part of my job with an international NGO. There are many refugee camps that borders to Myanmar in Thailand and they filled with people with tragic stories and years of hiding in the jungle. I gained high respect for the Karen people I met there and I was drawn to them. One had become impressed with what they achieved in their refugee camps with so little freedom and so little resources availble to them. This is not a lazy people that lacks creativity and hope for the future.
I send you this email as I feel that in todays world we are corrupted with meaningless things and put too much value on self promotation and what others think of us and to be cool and hip and liked. We focus on the wrong values in life. We have the wrong concept of what really matters and what is really important. We define success and happyness in the strangest ways.
My heart cries for this people. This land. So alone with their problems, yet so happy and hopeful. Much like Tibetians. When I was in Tibet in 1999 it was electric. A Tibetian munk begged me ”do not forget us”. I must admit I did. Worthless things took over my life for a while. But I feel more and more that I need to accept the fact that these people’s freedom and rights to be heard are so much more important than so many things we fight for in our daily life. What define our lives?
It is maybe the beginning of an end of an era for Myanmar? Maybe we should all redefine what really matters in our life and be nicer to the people closests to us. To focus more on their freedom and rights than our own wants. Do we really need all the things we imagine we want and need so desperatly in out lives? There can be compromises made if one is willing to negotiate and listen. Dictatorships have a tendency of turning people away from the leader/s. Because in the end of it all; it is not all the things we say that define us; it is what we do and refrain from doing. Much like Aung San Kuu Kyi and on the other side of the table; the military regime of Myanmar .
This is Burma , and it will be different than anything you have experienced. Rudyard Kiepling.
Democratic Voice of Burma . www.dvb.no