Sunday, January 30, 2011

THE BURMA WE LOVE by Aye Kyaw (MA, B.L, Ph.D)

A Position Paper of the Arakanese Perspective Presented at the Oslo Burma Seminar on January 15-17, 2004

Burma vs. Myanmar

The present military junta changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar- a term first found in the Taungguni inscription of Pagan, A.D. 1090. In the Burmese language, ba and ma are interchangeable as in the case of myint and byte. The Arakanese called the country of Myanmar the country of Bama. As both names are the same, the Arakanese finds no sound reason in the change of the same names. Thus we continue to use the name, Burma. Why did the military junta change the name of the country?

Rakhaing vs. Arakan

Both terms come from Pali, one of the oldest and sacred languages of India, the other two are Sanskrit and Prakrit. The name Rakhaing is derived from a Pali word, Rakkhita, which means cherish, maintain, or take care of. The name, Arakan comes from Arakkha, which bears the same meaning of Rakkha. However, the name, Rakhaing is well know and well used as well. The name, Arakan is known to a five percentage of the whole population of Rakkhaingland. As both Rakhaing and Arakan come from the same meaning and the same Pali root; one can use either name. Both are legitimate and original.

The name can be written in two ways: Rakhaing and Rakhine. Both are correct. However, phonetically speaking, we prefer Rakhaing to Rakhine. In the Rakkhaing literary tradition, the way we spell and the way we pronounce are the same.

In the historical sources, the name of Rakhaing Kingdom is mentioned as Rakkhapura
(Rakhaingland) and Arakhadesa (Arakanland). This is the oldest name recorded in both Sanskrit and Pali traditions.

The name Rakhaing is also found in the earliest Burmese inscriptions of the Pagan dynasty (1044-1282).

Some Indian scholars call Rakhaing “Magh” or “Mugh”, which means the people from Magadha- a region in the east of India where the Pali language and Buddhism during and after the life of the Buddha in the 550s B.C flourished. Note that Pali is known to the Rakhaing, Burmese and Thai as Magadha Bhasa, the language of Magadha.

Name and Meaning

In the Rakhaing tradition as well as in the Burmese tradition, there are two kinds of name given to: (1) ordinary name and, (2) extraordinary name.

As to the meaning of the name, Rakhaing is explained in Pali as: Kulavasam Rakkhatiti Rakhaing. The name Rakhaing is given as they take care of their race. In an ancient historical record in poetic form, the meaning of the name, Rakhaing is mentioned as:

Amyo sila ngit htana ko
Pyiwas mandaing
Caun cwan hnaing the
Rakhaing nama anyuta thinnya
Kho aup cwa tee

Ashin Nagainda Mawgun(14 century)

Because they are capable of cherishing their race and their Buddhism as their two central pillars, they deserve to get the honourable called Rakhaing (Ashin Nagainda’ Historical Record).

Rakhaing vs. Arakan History

A history of Rakhaing begins with King Marayu who founded the first Dhayawadi dynasty in B.C 3325-1483. The 234 kings ruled Arakan for a long period of 5108 years.By the invasion of Bodaw Maung Waine in 1784 (in the Burmese chronicle, Bodawpaya), the Rakhaing kingdom came to a close. Since then Rakhaing culture, tradition, and literature declined. One might wonder about the length of long period of Rakhaing history. The city of Thandwe was one of the three oldest cities in the world. The other two are Damascus in Syria and Beneres in India. The present of neo-lithic culture in Thandwe district supports this statement as well. In view of this long historical period of Arakan Kingdom was therefore quite possible. We need further scholarly research.

Rakhaing vs. Buddhism

In the history of Southeast Asia, the Rakhaing are the people who first received Buddhism from India. This happened due to the fact that Rakkhapura, the Kingdom of Rakhaing, was adjacent to the Magadha region where Buddhism flourished. This statement is supported by the discovery in 1872 of two stone slabs, bearing the first couplet of the Buddhist text from Ye dhamma down to Maha Sramana. The first stone slab was found at Ngalonmaw village, which is near my birth village, Ywathit, and the second one was found at Byewa near the town of Thandwe. In addition, the renowned Buddha image known as the Maha Muni is the earliest image made in the Kingdom of Arakan. At present the great image is in Mandalay.

The Rakhaing Buddhist king built such beautiful pagodas as the Andaw, Nandaw, and Sandaw on three hills near Thandwe town. These pagodas were erected by Rakhaing king of the Vesali dynasty in the years 1761 A.D., 753 A.D., and 784 A.D. comparatively speaking, while the Rakhaing Buddhist king was building these pagodas, a wealthy and powerful king of the Shailendra dynasty of Indonesia was constructing in Java the largest Buddhist temple in the world, known as Burobudur around 750 A.D. By this time, there was no existence of the Pagan dynasty, which was founded by King Anorahta in 1044 A.D., nor did the numerous pagodas seen at present Pagan exist.

Buddhism vs. Other Religious

The Rakhaing have been cherishing, maintaining, and taking care of Buddhism for nearly three thousand years. They are committed to doing so at present and in the future as well. The Rakhaing are aware of the fact (1) that the most famous Library of Nalanda University was burnt down by Islamic terrorists. It is recorded the flame was rising for six months;(2) that Borobudur was almost destroyed by Islamic terrorist; but now it is under UN protection, and (3) that in 2001 the ancient Buddhist statues were destroyed by Islamic terrorists of Afghanistan. In view of these historical facts, the Rakhaing are worried about and are wondering when the turn of our Great Shwedagon Pagoda, originally built by the Mon, will come?

The Rakhaing are pleased to see that Professor Pe Maung Tin, a Christian, who became the first President of Rangoon University in 1937 attended the church wearing the Burmese gaung baung- headgear and Burmese taik pon- jacket.

In the history of modern Burma, there exists no serious clash between the Buddhists and the Christians. However, it took place between the Buddhists and the Muslims in the 1930s. The problem does not stop there.

Ethnic Minorities vs. Non-ethnic Minorities

With respect to the definition of an ethnic minority, Dr.Maung Maung, a lawyer and a State Councillor, who later became president of Burma invited Professor U San Tha Aung, Director General of the Department of Higher Education, and myself as Rakhaing representatives in 1979. Present at that meeting in his office was U Kyaw Nyein who later became Minister of Education. I submitted my proposal that those people who appeared in the Inquest (census) of King Bodawpaya taken in the 1880s ought to be regarded as ethnic minorities. Through the discussion, we agreed that those people who were in Burma before the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826 should be regarded as ethnic minorities. Those people who came along with the British colonial administration were regarded as non-ethnic minorities.

This definition is in line with the principle defined by General Aung San, father of the Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This definition is historically valid and sound, thereby not creating any further problem.

We have accepted this definition. In April 2001, the Arakan League for Democracy (in Exile) held its third conference in New Delhi, India. This conference laid down, among others, a principle, which was very important for shaping the destiny of Burma. This principle is called the Bhumi Rakkhita Putra Principle. Bhumi means land; Rakkhita taking care of; Putra sons and daughters. Those who were in Rakhaingland, and who have been cherishing, maintaining, and taking care of this land generations after generations before the end of the first Anglo-Burmese War ought to be given priority and preference.

Rakhaing National Guards vs. Burma Army

We have sizable and respectable troops fighting for democracy. They are, Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Arakan Independence Army (AIA), Arakan Army (AA), Democratic Party of Arakan (DPA), National United Party of Arakan (NUPA), and United Arakan Party (UAP). And the ALP was founded by some patriotic Rakhaing youths in Rangoon in 1965. Those who belong to these parties and others ought to be integrated as Rakhaing National Guards. They would be under the command of the Governor of Rakhaing State and would be responsible for homeland security. Rakhaing had this kind of tradition in the history and in the independence movements as well.

Rakhaingland vs. Territorial Unity

Rakhaing have been enjoying their life since the beginning of their history with King Marayu in B.C 3325. In ancient time Rakhaingland comprised the area of present Bangladesh and the area west of the Rakhaing Roma (Arakan Mountain Range). In 1853 the Governor of Pathein annexed the south portion of Thandwe District. By 1935 Burma Act, the Paletwa Township was given to the Chin Division. These areas had been in the Rakhaing Kingdom for more than two thousand years. We ask whether or not these areas would be in the newly created Rakhaing State under the new Federal Constitution?

Rakhaing vs. Modern Burmese Politics

In the political history of modern Burma, the Rakhaing intellectually lead and enrich the political life of Burma. U Shwe Zan Aung who wrote A Compendium of Buddhist Philosophy (1897) was the first philosopher from Burma. Ven. U Ottama was the first monk-politician, who initiated the non-violent concept in the politics of Burma. He opened the new political arena in modern Burma. He was also the first professor in Japan. U Ba U was the most influential Rakhaing student leader, who led the most famous university boycott movement in the 1920s. This student boycott led Burma to her independence in 1948. In the history of the student movements, the first student causality was a Rakhaing student, Maung Oo Kyaw who died on Friday March 18, 1921. The second causality was a Burma student as Bo Aung Kyaw, who died on December 12, 1938. The first politician, who initiated and supported the formation of the Rangoon University Student Union in 1923 was U May Oung, who was a Rakhaing and later became a minister under the (diarchy). The first ambassador to Japan during the Japanese occupation in 1942-45 was a Rakhaing, U Aung Ba. The Rakhaing were those who first resisted against the Japanese occupation long before such resistance took place in Burma on March 27, 1945, were the Rakhaing. U Nyo Tun who became an ambassador to Australia during the socialist government in 1970s. We fought for independence shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese.

At present, Rakhaing leaders are working hard with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to region our lost Democracy. In particular, Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) led by a well-know leader Dr.Saw Mra Aung and U Aye Tha Aung won a landslide victory in Arakan State in the 1990 elections. My classmate U Tha Bann is a Rakhaing leader who has been in prison for many years.

We point out these facts to help both ethnic and non-ethnic minorities understand how the Rakhaing are committed to restoration of democracy and freedom. From the beginning modern Burmese politics, we have been scarifying ourselves to enhance the national dignity and national consciousness of Burma as a whole. We ask, “Do we get equal right?”

One -Way Cultural Traffic vs. Two-Way Cultural Traffic
1. Because of the fact that the Burma of today has only one way traffic, we study the Burman history, which provides only one way. We need both ways. The Burman ought to study the history, culture and tradition of the ethnic people, and at the same time, the ethnic minorities ought to learn both Burman and their own culture and tradition. This does not happen in Burma, thus creating problems after problems.

In December 2003 the ceremony for the fourth annual talk on Burmese language and literature was held in New York. On this occasion, Dr. Saw Shwe Dah, Ph.D. pointed out that he was pleased with the talks; however, don’t forget to talk about the Karen language.

Rakhaing vs. Rakhaing History

In our Rakhaing State, the history of Rakhaing side by side with the Burman history should be taught. This will help Burma unify in diversity. This principle ought to be seriously taken into account by other ethnic minorities as well.

Rakhaing vs. Road Map

We believe that one who comes to the court of Law should have clean hands. Without releasing the political prisoners, the Road Map sounds good but it does not have substance. Should the military junta sincerely be interested in providing democracy to Burma, junta would have already validated the first fair election of 1990. And we Rakhaing visualize that the military junta will change its name again. This will help the regime prolong its power. To stop the military regime, there are at least three ways. First, the United Nations Security Council should be given the power to dismantle the military dictatorship which has been destroying democracy process. Second, Burma gained her independence through the intervention of Japanese and British as an essential external force. Without having an external force such as the United States, the second independent movements of Burma will be very difficult. And third, the modern history of Burma indicates some examples that a government could be terminated by a united upraising of the people within the country.

Rakhaing believe that we have to give the best legacy to our younger generations. We believe that the 1990 election should be validated for them. This statement is for the national unity and for the future dignity and prestige of THE BURMA WE LOVE.

Identity vs. National Consciousness

National consciousness is a community of aspiration, response and action. This element should be united for regaining democracy and human rights and freedom. The fact that endless political disputes come to occur in our beloved land because the picture of national conciseness as a whole was or is not painted by the collective wills of our ethnic minority. So long as the picture of national consciousness is painted by one group of people, as with the present military junta, there will be no peace and unity in Burma. Therefore, the Rakhaing firmly believe that we should not repay our past mistakes in creating our bright future.

We believe that one who wants identified himself with whom is equally important for cementing the lasting unity between and among us.

Issues and Solution

Issue comes from two sources:1) Lack of a two way cultural traffics, and 2) identity and national consciousness. To solve these problems, we should work together, ethnic minority and non-ethnic minority and the Burman enjoy studying the two way culture. As scholar for my life, I had never come across a Burman who is completely at home with Karen language and litterateur, scholarly. I believe that a Burmese citizen ought to be well verbs at least in two native languages. While teaching at the various universities in Burma, some Mon professors complained that we dear not speak Mon language at the campus, so did some Karen professors. So long as this situation is taken place at the various university campuses, we cannot enjoy our peace and prosperity. Each of our brothers and sisters understands our feelings; the problems of Burma can be solved very easily.

A Burmese can be a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Muslim. It is justice for all, freedom and dignity and equality. Being a Burmese citizen, we have to take pride in having the three world records: 1) Burma is a country where we can find the most numerous ancient pagodas in terms of per-square mile. 2) the Buddhist scripture has about twenty five thousands pages. Burma is a country which is capable of producing the most learned Buddhist monks who can recite these pages. And 3) Burma the country which can produce the first female Noble Peace Prize Winner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. For these reasons alone, our country ought to be in peace and harmony. To make this happen, we should establish our unity through sincere understanding. We should also appreciate the beauty of our diversity and differences. A whole cannot exist without its parts, so are the parts without a whole.

Aye Kyaw (MA, B.L, Ph.D)
January 10, 2004

Contact address:
P.O BOX 140397
Brooklyn New York, NY 11214


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