(Commentary) – “Please don’t delay the ethnic issues in Burma. The wound of our country will worsen. It should be resolved through dialogue at the earliest time,” opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in an interview on Tuesday, the International Day of Democracy.
After hearing these words, I hoped for the democracy to be restored in our country. A ceremony for the International Democracy Day was held at our refugee camp office under the sponsorship of the United Nations. Camp officials told us about their bitter experiences in the civil war.
Many people wept while the camp officials described their experiences of brutality, persecution, genocide, the shelling of classrooms of young children by heavy weapons. The speaker couldn’t conclude his talk because of deep sadness and he made a small hand gesture before sitting down. The audience understood what he didn’t say.
During three years in this refugee camp, I can feel the suffering of the war refugees, hoping for a better future. Burmese government offensives and military operations taught them how to survive by depending on Mother Nature.
The homes of the war refugees are different from normal houses. The houses of some ethnic Karen refugees have long eaves to hide the interior of their houses. And also they have removable stairs and they can remove the stairs during the night to prevent strangers from entering their houses.
They always pack their belongings and keep them ready in the case of an emergency. They always have their dinner early at around 4 p.m. They do these things from experience. The military operations and offensives can reach their villages at any time, in any season. They keep themselves ready to flee from war like a fighting cock.
Similarly, the pro-democracy politicians and their families from urban areas have a similar fate. They have to live miserably and in anxiety because of the inhumane social system. Midnight knocks on their door could be a pretext of checking household registration, a harbinger of separation of their loved ones from their families. These unwelcomed visitors will take away their loved ones without allowing them to take anything. They just say, “He will be taken for a while for questioning.” The remaining family members have to wait for their return, without any real information. Once Thakin Zin’s wife Daw Kyi Kyi said to me, it was like ages for those taken away, but for the authorities it was just “for a while.”
The youngest daughter of Grandma Kyi Kyi, Auntie Ma Harr, once said to me that she saw her father Thakhin Zin only once when a peace parley was held.
“At that time, I was in primary school while living in Kyaukmyaung. I found my mom talking with an unknown man in an overcoat and turban, friendly and intimately when I came back from my school. Then I realized this man was my dad. My dad had to go back to the jungle in the Bago mountain range when the peace parley failed. Then I heard the tragic news about my father on the radio, the Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS). He was killed in action. People asked my mom when the religious ceremony for the death of my father would be held. My mother said, ‘Ko Zin will always be in my heart so I won’t hold a religious ceremony for the death of him.’ So (writer) grandma Ludu Daw Ahmar sent her a condolence letter when grandma Daw Kyi Kyi died, which said, ‘I have deep sorrow for her demise, such a brave and tough woman.’”
If the internal peace parley had been successful at that time, we would not have experienced such tragic incidents in our lives. The families of grandma Daw Kyi Kyi sacrificed their lives in the mountains, the Rangoon prison and Insein prison. The terrible political system gave us a new vocabulary in our life – a family of convicts.
When these prisoners of conscience were sent to the prisons far away from their homes, it made it very difficult to visit them. Their families have to struggle with high inflation and soaring commodity prices as their struggle to survive. People in our country always say, “Have a meal together at the same time to save money.” This saying shows how our people are. In our country, the political prisoners are even imprisoned at their own expense.
Unpolished rice, green gram soup with a foul smell, a small piece of fish paste, these are the type of meals provided by the government to political prisoners. They cannot survive on that food. They survive in the prison with food parcels sent by their families.
Peace is badly needed for our country, which is like a patient with a chronic disease. The new president, if he really wanted national reconciliation, would release all the political prisoners.
The new flag of our country should not be hoisted on top of the bones of ethnic people, the poor imprisoned politicians and on top of the people’s blood and tears.