BURMA: Lawyers, monks determined to defy “forced politics”

BURMA: Lawyers, monks determined to defy “forced politics”

(Hong Kong, September 26, 2007) Lawyers in Burma on Tuesday established a new union to introduce “genuine politics” to the country and defy what they called the regime’s “forced politics” as protests continued for a tenth day despite harsh warnings in the media and through loudspeakers on government vehicles.

In a preliminary statement, a copy of which was obtained by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the Lawyer’s Union of Burma said that for half a century the country had been repressed and impoverished by the army.

Burma was first brought under interim military rule in 1958. It has been under it continuously since 1962.

The lawyers called for the government to accept the people’s demands for reductions in commodity prices, the release of all political prisoners, and dialogue for national reconciliation.

“We strongly welcome the entry of the lawyers as a profession into this movement at such a critical time,” Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC said.

“We know of many lawyers in Burma who have struggled to maintain the dignity of the courts despite the lawlessness of their government and uphold the standards of their profession,” he said.

“It is not surprising that they would feel the need to lend their support to the ongoing protests there,” Fernando noted.

“We salute the lawyers that have formed this union and will do everything that we can to support them,” he concluded.

The Hong Kong-based regional group has in recent years concentrated its work on human rights in Burma through cases that speak to what it has described as the country’s “injustice system”.

Meanwhile, the AHRC received information on Wednesday that a prominent human rights lawyer, who has handled many cases concerning forced labour and land confiscation in Burma, was taken into custody on Tuesday.

U Aye Myint was arrested in Pegu, north of Rangoon, at 2pm. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

“Aye Myint was jailed in 2005 for almost a year after he helped farmers in a fight to get their land back from the government authorities,” Fernando said.

“The ILO [International Labour Organisation] did a great deal of work on his case then to see him released and we hope that despite the difficulties under the current conditions it will quickly try to gain details about his current circumstances and reasons for his arrest,” he said.

In Kale, Sagaing Division, four persons who had spoken at rallies on Monday were also reported to have been arrested in the early morning hours on Wednesday.

The four have been named as U Ba Min, an organiser for the National League for Democracy (NLD) who had also previously been incarcerated, Michael Win Kyaw, U Myint Thin and U Nyo Mya.

The AHRC has also received a copy of a letter signed by the abbot of an urban monastery in Rangoon calling on the head of the military regime to “restore the people’s power to its original owner”.

Saying that the country’s problems had remained unsolved for over 60 years due to corrupt national leaders, the abbot from South Okkalapa urged the army chief, Senior General Than Shwe, to hold talks and find a way out of the impasse.

“Throughout these 60 years, we have argued, quarrelled, blamed and slandered one another. The wastage of human resources is a sad loss. Year by year we sink further and further into the doing of bad rather than good,” U Thangara Linkara said.

The abbot advised that the general set up a body to give guarantees that he and his subordinates would not face reprisals if they surrender power voluntarily.

Full text of the letter follows.

Letter to Senior General Than Shwe by U Thangara Linkara, Abbot of the Dhamma Yeiktha Monastery, South Okkalapa Monastery, Rangoon


Senior General Than Shwe
Head of State

I respectfully write this letter to you with Metta [loving kindness]. Please read it with foresight and consider wisely.

1. We monks [see that] Burma’s difficulties have gone on for over 60 years. As delicate political issues have not been solved in a delicate way, now after 60 years they have been needlessly prolonged, like an unfinished painting.

2. Unhappily, throughout these 60 years, we [brethren] have argued, quarrelled, blamed and slandered one another. The wastage of human resources is a sad loss. Year by year we sink further and further into the doing of bad rather than good.

3. The root cause is power. Those individuals who temporarily held the people’s power on behalf of the people have prolonged [their hold on power] for their own purposes for over 60 years. The original owners of power, the people, have been made innocent victims: more and more repressed and poor and impoverished. In fact, the people’s power should be in the people’s hands, so that people can live comfortably and free from difficulty.

4. Dr. Maung Maung said, “Power can corrupt and absolute power can corrupt absolutely.” It is very true. Power corrupted General Ne Win and some of his men. Power corrupted Senior General Saw Maung, Lieutentant General Tun Kyi, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt and other individuals. Now power corrupts the majority of generals under your command.

5. I once asked a camp/station commander close to me, “How much are you worth?” He replied, “About 50 million.” I said, “What’s that? One lieutenant general must have millions upon millions.” He said, “How so. A colonel can have that much. A general has enough for ten lives.” Senior General, think about how corrupted these generals are. While the generals are gathering up the nation’s natural resources, the majority of the people are destitute and starving.

6. Knowing that power corrupts, the Buddha-to-be, Prince Taymi, for 16 years pretended to be deaf and mute for fear of holding great power. All saintly people truly fear power.

7. Senior General if you [your people] really wish to resolve the current difficulties, decide quickly to restore the people’s power to its original owner, the people. Quickly inform the people of this. This is the right way.

8. To restore power to the original owner, meet and discuss how to find the best solution together with: 1. the national leadership; 2. respected, prominent abbots; 3. intellectuals and personages from all quarters with the interests of the country really at heart; 4. political scientists.

9. Form an organisation to ensure firm guarantees for the future of the [current] national leaders (for instance, an organisation led by Senior Abbots).

10. It is only through the returning of the people’s power to the hands of the people that the over 60 years of unsolvable heavy problems will in fact be solved.

With great Metta and goodwill

U Thangara Linkara, 25/9/2007
Dhamma Yeiktha Abbot
Dhamma Yeiktha Monastery
South Okkalapa

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PL-038-2007
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Campaigns : Burma Peoples Protests
Issues : Independence of judges & lawyers, Military, State of emergency & martial law,