The prominent Burmese Buddhist monk who helped lead the “Saffron Revolution,” Ashin Gambira – now known as Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin since he took off his robes – has released a letter accusing the military of using the Arakan community unrest for its own purposes.
Ko Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin is in poor health, since his release from prison in January 2012. Several international organizations have offered to pay his expenses if he will leave Burma for proper medical treatment, but he has refused, saying he fears he would not be allowed to return.
In an open letter reprinted below, he writes about the current conflict in Arakan State, the tensions between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines, and his belief that the country’s military “is exacerbating the conflict in an attempt to retain its relevancy.”
The letter was first published on The Best Friend website (www.thebestfriend.org) on Aug. 29. The translation from Burmese to English was done by Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin (no relation to Gambira) in Tokyo.
“I feel very sorry after reading the latest news. I don’t feel so much surprised as angry, because I knew something like this would happen soon. One step leads to another. It is actually not so surprising for our country Myanmar, because neither people nor the politicians have good understanding.
The military relies on conflict to stay in power
“The violence between Rakhines and Rohingyas in Arakan State is an example of how dictatorships all over the world use and rely on conflicts to stay in power. If all people were united, a military dictatorship could not survive. Division and enmity in the minds of the people only keeps the military strong. Because of this, the military systematically uses division-and-rule policies on the grounds of nationality, religion, economic and education status, etc., to divide people, to keep the military ‘necessary’, relevant, and in power.
“So the Burmese people are kept separated in groups, each group for themselves, without unity or cooperation.
Everybody lives in fear and distrust of the other. Everyone sees the other with a suspicious mind. With this pressure, the people are defeated.
Nationalism is used to the keep the military system alive
“The new freedom fighter groups were organized under a wrong system of a Burma nationalist policy. These national revolution organization systems are a mistake. They produce suspicions and tensions between Burmese and their fellow landsman. Furthermore, it is slowly destroying the meaning of ‘union’ until the ‘union mind’ will disappear. This is the situation that the Burmese military uses to keep the military system necessary and alive.
The thirst for human rights
“We haven’t had human rights or true democracy in our country for over fifty years. For the last fifty years and five months, an old man hasn’t been able to get a taste of democracy, human rights, freedom, justice, or equality. Some people have not known any of these things their entire lives. This means we were so thirsty for human rights that we sometimes demanded them like fools.
“We are living in the 21st century now, in a time of globalization, but in our country the principles of human rights and democracy are terribly broken. So our understandings of dhamma, detta, peace, and human rights are very rough, and we are beaten, arrested, killed, and destroyed.
“Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, has said clearly that during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, crimes against humanity were committed.
“The illegal government acted against me with unjust laws and rules. I was sentenced by a judge to 68 years in prison. I lost my time, health, education, and freedom for the sake of my motherland. I spent nearly four years in prison.
Everyone around the world knew that the people and monks were marching nonviolently with love, dhamma, and peace, and we didn’t have as much as a nail with us. But we were broken down very violently, beaten, shot, and killed.
“The same people who were ruling Burma then are now presenting themselves to the world as a legal government.
They show themselves to be honest, polite, and clear. But nothing has changed in Myanmar, even in this changing period. The neo-military dictatorship has exploited and fostered a new national crisis, a religious conflict, the Rakhine-Rohingya conflict, for its own purposes.
“This is a very simple and effective strategy. It has happened several times in the past. There have been conflicts between Buddhist monks and Muslims before. They have been fighting each other, and the military dictatorship benefited from it. These clashes were encouraged by the military to keep the people separated.
“We had started a metta campaign in our country with slogans for peace and democracy. The campaign includes members of all religions. But now, the Rakhine and Rohingya have turned against each other violently in front of the world. Even some members of the democracy movement have followed the threat of politics by the military regime and have changed sides.
The rule of law
“I want to say one additional thing. We need to count from the beginning. We only needed to judge with the rule of law those three Rohingyas who raped a girl. Rohingyas or Rakhines, Burmans or Shan, everybody must obey the rule of law. Why encourage racism, why create a crisis? Why blame only Rohingyas and put all of the purnishment on all of them?
“In Bangladesh, in a minority village on the border with Myanmar, several people were robbed by Bengali groups. The Bangladeshi government took effective action against the robbers with the rule of law, and a crisis was averted.
“I feel sad to know that some Buddhist monks have joined demonstrations and campaigns against Rohingyas. We already previously kindled a fire of dhamma for everyone around the world to see in 2007. Do I need to explain in detail the meaning of the Buddha’s words, of metta, dhamma, peace, ahitha, thitthar, ageha, for everyone?
“As you know, my health is not so good, so I have been taking a rest lately. Actually, the past revolution experience was a very dark and hopeless situation inside the prison for me.
“I faced it, and survived this condition after I was released into the present political situation. I really want to write more about it. But I have to take care of my health first. In the future when I am better, I hope I can do it.
“Even writing this letter hurts my eyes and causes severe headaches. The deep pain inside my body is bad, but I needed to write and send this to you.”
Signed Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin