Thursday, 25 October 2012

U Win Tin: Burma At This Moment Is Like A Jail, Like A Prison

- Interview with U Win Tin – Part 2, by Elke Kujper for The Best Friend

When I get hold of him – I am referred to a different number a few times, as he has no permanent place of residence because the junta repossessed his house during his detention and is putting pressure on landlords not to rent to him, so he is forced to stay with various friends – I am surprised by his eloquency and his energetic sounding voice. He is witty and sharp and talks a lot. He has no fear that conversations like ours might cause him danger. “No, I do not mind, you see, in Burma you cannot speak like this because some action or something you have done cannot bring danger for you at the present time, but it might be dangerous for you at a later time. They keep a record of your actions and then when you are sent for trial these things will become the evidence of you being guilty.

But I do not mind; I am always talking to the media: VOA, BBC, DVB, Irrawaddy. I am very outspoken and I have no restraints about my opinions. Recently, I was telling everybody, that Burma at this moment is like a jail, like a prison. The whole country is in prison and people are suffering. We talk about human rights violations and about the 2,000 political prisoners in the jail now, but all people are prisoners. They are prisoners in their own country. In their own towns. In their own house. Whenever I go out to the town and to my office or to my friend’s house or even to a funeral you see, there are some two or three motorcycles following me. It is almost impossible to see a free man in Burma at this moment.”
When asked about his opinion on the recently announced ‘pattanikkujjana’ (alms boycott) and whether he thinks it effective, his answer is long and passionate: it is obvious that he admires the monks and is a devout Buddhist.
“This ‘pattanikkujjana’ is very effective. For a Buddhist, you are boycotted by the Sangha organisation. When you are under a ‘pattanikkujjana’, you are no longer a Buddhist. For the government it is very effective. They are Buddhist – nomally ofcourse – and the ‘pattanikkujjana’ has a very bad effect on them, that is one thing. As a Buddhist they have a big influence in the country. They play the religious card: they assume they are the guardians of the religion. They are the promotor of the religion. They put up big pagodas and give support to the ‘chaungs’ (monasteries).
Although it is effective, in order to move or to make a big action or to have a more pronounced way of change, more is needed. The monks, according to the Buddhist teaching, do not act as politicians. Some Western newspapers wrote that monks are never permitted to vote in elections. Burmese monks are always out of politics because they are the religious people, so they are not concerned with voting. Anyhow, they have a very high tradition of political activity, even as long ago as Colonial days, as leaders in the movement. Although the government promotes the religion so that people will regard them as the guardians of the religion, they try too hard. Then you see, this ‘pattannikujjana’ action happened and they were very shocked. In a situation like this, the monks could make a movement if they were a political party, but they are not. They are no political party, so they have to wait and just provide people with information and tell the people that this government is really no authority and the monks are surpressed.”
Things have not changed for the better since the peaceful demonstrations by the monks were violently cut down in 2007.
“Every week we hear news about monks being arrested and taken from their ‘chaungs’. Even for instance, if I want to ask a ‘pongyi’ (monk) to give some offering to my house, his ‘chaung’ will be asked not to go to my house. The government’s suppression of religious people will not go unnoticed, because in the foreign press and media people are reporting about these incidents. So although there is not so much activity by the monks as a political force, they are still there, the force is going on everyday and they work everyday.“
“Although they are not a political organisation and they have no real political activity, they do visit maybe 4 or 20 houses everyday, because they have to collect their meals, so they have to go around in the streets and they talk to the people. They are in contact with the people. In that way they are more political than us, because we do not go to people’s houses everyday. They have to go out and collect their meals early in the morning or in the daytime: they get one spoonful of rice from this house and one from that house and so on. They are in close contact with the people and can exchange ideas and opinions. Their influence on the people is very high, because they are their friends. They go out everyday to the houses and collect alms and they talk and talk. And in those talks there might be some political matters or talks about their suffering in live. So Burmese people are always ready to sympathise with them.”

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Sat 10 Nov 2012
BABSEA 2nd Annual Access To Justice Public Interest Fair
"justify">Get information and help support local community-based organizations, build a network, and find out about job and volunteer opportunities at this fair showcasing the work of NGOs working in Southeast Asia.
Where: Kantary Hills Hotel, 44 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 12, Chiang Mai
Time: 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Entrance: free

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