Narinjara news

Interview with Khaing San Lunn, Vice President, ALD (Exile):

On the death of Ne Win

December 02  0900 hrs

Comment on the death of Ne Win, please, as Vice President of Arakan League for Democracy (Exile).

San Lunn
:  The death of Ne Win does not personally affect me.  But as he was one of the Thirty Comrades who took part in the war of independence, well, I think I feel for his death.  Since there was nothing good that came out of his rule between 1962 and 1988, there is nothing that we have to comment from the angle of our party. 

N – Would you please tell us a little more about the outcomes of Ne Win’s rule in that period?

S – In 1961, there was a decision to grant regional autonomy to Rakhine and
Mon States.  In 1962, Ne Win took the state power (through military intervention).  As a result we as Rakhine people lost not only our right to autonomy but also to basic rights.  Under the iron rule of the dictator Ne Win, Rakhine State once a rice-exporting region faced famine in 1967.  When people were starving to death, the military junta led by Ne Win killed hundreds of rallying hungry people in cold blood on 13th August.  As we lost our basic rights, we could not even express our grievances against the misrule.  So the period of authoritarian rule from 1962 to 1988 did not produce anything good for the people of Rakhine State.  The whimsical rule only took the state down the road of bankruptcy, with people suffering from the iron rule.

N: There was a very short period of democracy in
Burma just after the independence in 1948.  What difference can you find in the state of affairs before and after 1948?

S - Before 1948 we had a large number of Rakhine scholars, we enjoyed comparatively more freedom, personal freedom at that. We enjoyed the rights to express freely if we paid the requisite taxes.  In the courts of justice, people were allowed to their rights of justice – given access to all the legal system procedures, including the right to engage a lawyer.  But under the authoritarian rule after 1962, the system was either abolished or dealt with an iron control by the state.  The (British) applied the common law legal system in their courts, but in our courts, they applied the civil law legal system.  Yet we had access to the legal procedures as necessary.  The common law system had another advantage: it used jury for carrying out the judgement of a legal case.  When the pros and cons of the case were put before the jury board, there was every chance for an accused to get proper hearing and consultation before the justice was meted out.  Under the civil law system, a judge gives hearing to the proceedings in the court before he pronounces the judgment.  Our people under that system enjoyed comparative rule of law and justice at that time.  But under Ne Win’s rule, the authority of the court of justice was brought under the dictate of the military authority, depriving the people of their right to justice and fair trial.

In the constitution of 1947, prepared by the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) according to the spirit of the Panglong Agreement between Aung San and the ethnic leaders, the autonomy of
Rakhine State was not recognized.  But Rakhine State at that time possessed all the requirements to be considered and recognized as a regional autonomous state.   In the Taungyi conference of the non-Burman peoples, the autonomy of Rakhine and Mon was recognized and accepted. 

Ne Win took up the power through military means and declared the decision taken in the Taungyi conference as an “attempt to disintegrate
Burma”, and he always shouted for “non-disintegration of Burma” to gag the voice for autonomy of the different ethnic states. 

Between 1948 and 1962
Burma is said to have enjoyed a rule of democracy, but for the Rakhines, that ‘democracy’ was meaningless since we were deprived of the democratic rights.  The ruling democratic government of U Nu did not recognize the separate autonomy for such states as Rakhine and Mon.  People were encouraged to become Burmanized by denying the education through their own languages, or practise any of the cultural differences they belonged.

N – What do you think about the status of Rakhine as recognized by the Ne Win led junta in 1975?

S – In 1975,
Rakhine State was formed officially.  But that was on paper only and the people of Rakhine never took it to be a real ‘State’ – autonomous with right to self-determination, no.  It was a sham ‘state’ with full control of the Burmese juntas.

N – Do you expect any changes in the present political scene because of the death of Ne Win?

S – I don’t think there will be any meaningful changes in near future taking place in the Burmese political scene.  Because the present junta leaders are the products of the old political school of Ne Win.  The arrest and imprisonment of Ne Win’s grandsons and disciplinary actions against some of the high officials in the Burmese Army only shows how the present junta has been able to exert influence upon the future rule of the country.  This shows that, Ne Win had but little influence in the present political scenario of
Burma.  For this his death could be just as important as any normal citizen of the country.

N – What
effect do you think the death of Ne Win will bring in the ruling junta?  Any lessons to learn on their part?

S – Change – I don’t think there will be any.  But there will be some kind of effect – personal as well as in the form of lessons to learn.  Ne Win is dead.  His death was not taken as an important incident, rather the ruling SPDC junta made it into a low key affair.  As a Buddhist, we all know the inexorable way of the karma – you end up well for your good deeds, bad for all your misdeeds.  The present Burmese junta should learn the lesson of this universal truth.  It is the time to repent for the excesses committed by them upon the countless people of

N – What message do you have for the present Burmese junta?

S – Please take a close look at the end of the dictator Ne Win.  Then please ponder deeply how powerful he once was, but in death how powerless he was rendered.  The Old Dictator was the teacher, Saya, to the present SPDC giants.  But even they did not bother to feign not to notice the end of their Saya. 

At present, what the junta can do is get to a meaningful dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – because the future of
Burma is hanging on a balance.  Let’s forget whatever injustice has been done to the people.  For a prosperous future let’s move forward with newer understanding and recognition, working together hand in hand.  #