Tuesday, 28 May 2013

88 Generation Ko Ko Gyi on the Rohingya, ethnicity and citizenship: An Unpublished Interview

Source maungzarni, 27 May

"We are about to pronounce the official view (of 88 Generation Group) on the Rohingya. The Rohingya are not Myanmar Tai-yin-tha (or Bumiputra or native to Myanmar). The real issue in Bhutheedaung-Maungdaw is a mix of the illegal immigrants called Rohingya from Bangladesh and those who call themselves 'Rohingya', as the result of instigation by overseas elements."

- Ko Ko Gyi (seconded by Mya Aye, a Myanmar Muslim former student leader in the background of this You-Tube), 8 June 2012

The above is the 2-minute DVB interview liked/viewed by over 24,000 and posted on YouTube on 8 June 2012

The following transcript of the face-to-face interview with Ko Ko Ko Gyi was provided by Carlos Sardiña Galache, Spanish journalist, who interviewed the former student leader in Rangoon on 17 Aug 2012.

Q: Do you think is right to make citizenship dependant on ethnicity as this law does?

A: I want to write an article with the title "Human, citizen and ethnic". So from the humanitarian point of view we need to hear the humanism regardless of the borders and the barriers, it's ok. Ok, but in real politics every country has borders, sovereignty and security problems. So in America they try to fence the Mexican border to guard their boundaries. Every country has its own citizenship law, so this is our internal affairs, not to make interference from outside. This is what our people need to discuss.

Q: You haven't answered my question, do you think is right to base citizenship on ethnicity for Burma?

A: Repeatedly I told you we need to discuss to accommodate for the present situation. I just want to tell you that in such difficult situation between those populated regions, how can we identify our citizens if after 5 years you can live in our country [like in the USA] or if a baby born in our land automatically gets citizenship? How do make our national, cultural or historical preservation and maintenance?

Even though 1982 citizenship law is very strict law that so many criticize, I think after coup d'état back in 88, millions of population have it [citizenship]. Chinese and Bengalis also. You have to think that this is a problem for the national interest.


Even in Europe you have problems, like the looting in the UK, the killings in Norway, the Moroccans and Algerians in France, and the scarf, even there you have problems because of the immigrant people. Every country has its own problems about the immigrants.


Q: Even assuming that Rohingya are immigrants, and I am not saying that agree with that, lots of immigrants all over the world live peacefully and there's no problem…

A: Ok, if you live peacefully is ok. Our Rakhine, they lived in Bangladesh.

Q: And Rohingya also live peacefully here...

A: No! Rohingyas tried to revive the Mujaheed rebellion in the Parliamentary period and also very confusing... And then they wanted separate area, separate regions. If they live peacefully and respect is ok. Like Mon or Karen live in Thailand, they never insult or do any wrongdoing to their host country. But our situation is quite different.

Q: But the Mujahideen renounced to their struggle long time ago...(like in 1960).

A: Long time ago. Now is just population pressure. Some of the responses of some of the Rakhine people are illogical, I agree, but at the same time the Rohingya are more powerful than the Rakhine in the outside world, they use the international media and go through international organizations such as the UN.

//end text of the interview//

Compiler's remarks (not Carlos's):

According to Carlos, he conducted the tape-recorded interview face to face with Ko Ko Gyi in Rangoon on 17 August 2012, the day Presidential Inquiry Commission on the Rakhine Sectarian Violence was established, with Ko Ko Gyi as one of the 27 distinguished members.

Much has happened since the interview - like Obama's speech at Rangoon University in Nov 2012 where he named the un-namable - the Rohingya - ; South African retired bishop Desmond Tutu's visit in Feb 2013 and his strong push for the Burmese dissidents including Ko Ko Gy to dig deeper and find some human decency and open-mindedness towards the Rohingya, and the Human Rights Watch's report 'All You Can Do is To Pray" (late April 2013).

But nothing significant seems to have changed the ignorance-soaked, national security-deluded paranoia of Mr Ko Ko Gyi. This is rather worrying for the Rohingya as the former International Relations student at Rangoon University is considered "the brain' of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group.

Another important, if similarly misguided, ill-informed and discernibly racist view on the Rohingya issue was voiced by the group's face and leader Min Ko Naing (Paw Oo) at a Burmese migrants' event in New York this Sunday 26 May.

Here is the gist in English of this nearly 5 minute exposition on citizenship, Rohingya, etc. representing their group.

1). Re: (Bengalai) citizenship we need to treat it with utmost seriousness.
2). even in a liberal USA there are walls along its Mexico-USA borders.
3). We need to evaluate all available evidence about these people's ancestral roots.
a) have they lived here for generations? b) have they just popped in from across the borders (from Bangladesh)?
4). shall we give someone citizenship simply because he or she can speak our Burmese language?
5). if they are citizens they have to be prepared to defend the country in the event of a foreign invasion.
6). citizenship rights come with responsibilities!; and
7). I will stand in front of them and fight for their rights, if they are prepared to bear national responsibilities!

Sai Latt, a respected Shan scholar felt compelled to comment on the speech:

actually, what is so wrong is the fact the existence of borders are taken for granted instead of rejecting them. "evaluating ancestral roots": the question is for what? lived for generation? for what? citizens with responsiblility to defend the country: xenophobia + unnecessary anxiety about foreign invasion and war. worst, he is pro-national security stuff, the worst justification for oppression

Rather disturbingly, the Burmese society under the misguidance of both the Burmese generals and the dissidents are sleep-walking into an ideological and societal space which come to resemble that of the Third Reich in the 1930s.

One of the most misguided sentiments being actively pushed among the Buddhist communities across the country is 'defending Buddhism, Buddhist nation, Buddhist State' against the perceived and manufactured threats from Islam and Muslims.

What does defending Buddhism mean? I don't understand it. And I don't think Gotama the Enlightened or Awakened One would understand that widely popular Burmese view either.

For there is nothing to protect, from a Buddhist epistemological perspective.

If you are protecting something drop the word "Buddhist". For Buddhism needs no protection as it is supposed to be only an understanding of impersonal and immutable realities - like Death, Suffering, Birth, etc.

Click here to read my own analysis of the rising neo-Nazism in Burma Neo-Nazi Denial in Myanmar, Asia Times, 24 May 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be approved soon and your email will not be published.. thanks..