Achtzaamheid

Reconciliation in Myanmar

Myanmar is in the news today because of a huge problem with hundreds of thousands of refugees in the border area of North Western Rakhine state and neighbouring Bangladesh. Hardly anyone knows about the far more reaching process of Reconciliation the country is in, after fifty years of military regime. This is an attempt to change the course of history comparable to South Africa after the Apartheid regime.

News reporting is fully dominated by mainstream media like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, and the English newspaper The Guardian. Opinions of United Nations, European Union and NGO's like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and MSF are generally being reproduced totally uncritically. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of an iceberg of disinformation. Mainstram media at most look at the top of the iceberg, and totally forget that the most important part of an iceberg is the unseen part. This is called delusion or stupidity by the Buddha.

In Myanmar itself there is a totally different vision on the issue, which goes back until about two hundred years. British colonial era until 1948 and fifty years of isolation during military regime from 1962 have not been conductive for the facts to become common knowledge in the West.

Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech of September 19 2017 on 'National Reconciliation and Peace' makes an appeal to the rest of the world to broaden their knowledge about it. Remarkably enough she explicitly mentions the need of generosity and courage to do so. As a practising Buddhist she will most probably refer to attachment to opinions in this respect.

Her biographer Alan Clements ('Aung San Suu Kyi, The Voice of Hope') recently made the following statement about her (Facebook, 14 september 2017):

"Aung San Suu Kyi is a non-violent visionary, not a villain colluding with violence. She is undertaking the (nearly) impossible: making peace with everyone in her country, the oppressed and oppressors alike. This is unprecedented emotional territory, and not easy for the 'us and them' dynamic that dominates mainstream politics, and spirituality as well. Yes, it is very hard to make sense of this situation, preciesly because the 'Dhamma of nonviolent reconciliation' is the new edge of human transformation on our beleaguered planet."

Below one finds information gathered by me since August 2017.

From November 26 till February 6 2018 I will be in Myanmar again. Most of the time (December 1 - January 31) in a retreat at Panditarama Hsemine Gon Forest Center.

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The Soul of a People

In the book The Soul of a People (1898), written when Myanmar was part of the British Empire, Harold Fielding Hall gives a description of the character of the Burmese people. This description is quite opposed to the intolerant and even murderous predispositions nowadays attributed to them in the West and Arabia.

Harold Fielding-Hall (1859-1917) was born in Ireland. He went round the world in a sailing ship, 1878. Coffee planting in Upper Burma 1879-1885. In government service as political officer for a district, 1887-1891, and became district magistrate 1901; organized rural banks in Burma 1904-1906. Retired 1906 and returned to England.

In his book The Soul of a People (1898), Chapter XVIII 'Manners', p. 222-228, starts as follows:

'A remarkable trait of the Burmese character is their unwillingness to interfere in other people's affairs. Whether it arises from their religion of self-culture or no, I cannot say, but it is in full keeping with it. Every man's act and thoughts are his own affair, think the Burmans; each man is free to go his own way, to think his own thoughts, to act his own acts, as long as he does not too much annoy his neighbours. (...)  He has a very great and wide tolerance towards all his neighbours, not thinking it necessary to disapprove of his neighbours' acts because they may not be the same as his own, never thinking it necessary to interfere with his neighbours as long as the laws are not broken. (...) He never desires to interfere with anyone. Certain as he is that his own ideas are best, he is contented with that knowledge, and is not ceaselessly desirous to prove it to other people. And so a foreigner may go and live in a Burman village, may settle down there and live his own life and follow his own customs in perfect freedom, may dress and eat and drink and pray as he likes. No one will interfere. No one will try and correct him; no one will be for ever insisting to him that he is an outcast, either from civilization or from religion. The people will accept him for what he is, and leave the matter there. If he likes to change his ways and conform to Burmese habits and Burmese forms, so much the better; but if not, never mind.'

The Best Remedy

On April 16, 2016 the Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita passed away at the age of 94. In February of the same year, over eight successive nights, he had been explaining 'the Dhamma of Reconciliation' to the American journalist and performer Alan Clements - as a last advice to the nation of Myanmar. Only a few people do know that Sayadaw U Pandita was the Dhamma teacher and spiritual advisor of Myanmar's State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The following interview, as published in Tricycle, December 2016, will appear in a forthcoming book.

Speech Aung San Suu Kyi September 19, 2017

After terrorist attacks by ARSA (‘Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’) in October 2016 and August 25 2017, the reaction of the Myanmar army and the following massive refugee stream in Rakhine state and across the Bangladesh border, there was world wide pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi to speak about this.

September 19 she did, on her own conditions, and not on United Nations’, in her own capital, to her own people and the international diplomatic world and media as well. Topic of her speech was ‘Reconciliation and Peace’. She made an appeal to everyone, to all to whom it concerned, both in Myanmar and outside, to not be guided by fear and hate, as they are manifested in the use of weapons, words and emotions.

In most reactions in Western and Arabic media and by NGO’s like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, her words were immediately considered as idle and empty, and she was even called a lyer. It is saddening to see that this does not only continue hatred, but also delusion and stupidity. It simply shows that people have no idea HOW fear and hatred can decrease.

The truth behind Myanmar's Rohingya insurgency

Bertil Lintner, Asia Times, September 20, 2017.

History, issues and truth in Arakan-Rakhine state

Written by Rick Heizman (San Francisco) in 2012 for Burma Democratic Concern (BDC).

Rick Heizman has been in Myanmar twenty eight times since 1996, partly in UN service. In September and October 2017 he was in Rakhine State and to his surprise never met any Western journalist there. Most probably they were in the refugee camps in Bangladesh. Many many videos of interviews with Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims made by Heizman are to be found here. 21 of November he was interviewed in Toronto, Canada for one and a half hour, in what the presentator entitles as the interview of the year. After the interview he ambushed the Myanmarese dissident 'Dr.' Maung Zarni ('the most hated Myanmarese after the generals Ne Win en Than Shwe') in a meeting in the same town, where Zarni thought to be unobserved while sharing his fraudulous talk with Canada's lefties. 

Analysis

Spoken column (17 minutes) by Irish journalist and geopolitical analyst Gearóid Ó Colmáin on UK Column News, September 19, 2017.

Peace Plan in Rakhine state takes off

Larry Jagan, Bangkok Post, October 26, 2017, describes how the peace plan for Rakhine state as announced by Aung San Suu Kyi October 15, 2017, is sponsored by businessmen's gifts. He also gives details about the relationship between the civil part of the goverment and the military.