Friday, 20 June 2008

Birthday present for Daw Suu: Waves of 'Saffron Revolution'

By Nay Than Maung
Mizzima News

I didn't realize that the article that I wrote last fall would be significant and be a precious moment in my life. After retiring from the media world and living as a student in North Carolina State, Mizzima editor Ko Sein Win who was a classmate in media training conducted in Cambodia seven years ago, pressed me to write an article for his media. It was no doubt Ko Sein Win created a remarkable opportunity for me to write a Burma related article after a three-year lull.

At that time, hundreds of monks were marching in procession by reciting Metta sutra in Rangoon's monsoon rain and wind. The monk-led protest, tirelessly and assiduously striving for sweeping compassion across Burma, in rain soaked robes, was the most thrilling and exciting moment for me as well as to the modern history of Burma.

As I was watching this Metta (Love) reciting movement in full excitement at my home, the protesting monks met pro-democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest at her residence-turned-prison with Metta in the environment of incarceration. The monks saw her standing at her door step on that very day 23rd September 2007. At that moment, I realized that I'd got enough inspiration to write an article.

The compassion clad movement was the climactic moment in the 19-year long non-violent democratic movement led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi which seemed to be the prelude of forthcoming surging tidal wave of our democratic movement. I couldn't help recollecting the images of peaceful democratic transformation movement in East Europe, (countries once under the now defunct USSR).

The monks led protest calling the rulers to stop violence was the sequel of incidents where the regime brutally beat up monks, the most revered in Burmese society, in Pakokku two weeks ago. This incident sparked the nationwide movement drawing all the people in joining the protest, calling for sweeping political change and writing the modern history of Burma, was in fact, compassion head-butt against the brick wall.

The 2003 Red Rose revolution in Georgia, 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan are the sequels of the famous 1989 'Velvet Revolution' in Czech Republic, transforming to democratic states from totalitarian regimes. All these movements are firmly impressed in my head. Then I realized we need to symbolize our movement also with the images of flowers and colours, soon after that, I wrote my article.

In that article, I wrote,

"……Colours and flowers revolutions have started from systematic and peaceful defiance by the student movements and anti-communist movements…."

"The successful Velvet Revolution in Czech Republic was the encouragement to the newly emerged republics of former USSR to free from the yoke of communism.'Red Rose Revolution' in 2003 in Georgia compelled the corrupt President Eduard Shevardnadze who led the country to total economic chaos, had to enter into negotiations with the opposition leader brokered by the Russian government, and had to step down. The people were supporting the opposition leader, holding the red roses in their hands, and protesting against the rule of the existing government. Finally the peaceful red rose revolution succeeded. After one year, the pro-democracy forces in Ukraine started their struggle to topple the pro-Russia President by wearing orange ribbons which was later popularly known as 'orange revolution'. The electoral crisis created by controversial vote counting and massive electoral fraud made opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko an overwhelming success.

"In 2005, the Tulip Revolution which toppled the President Askar Akayev occurred in Kyrgyzstan. Like other colour or flower revolutions, the dictator President and his family was toppled and had to flee to Russia. At first, the world media referred this popular movement as Pink, Lemon, Silk and Daffodil revolutions. But the toppled president himself referred this movement as Tulip revolution and warned the people not to wage colour revolution against his administration."

"The reason why we referred this movement of democracy loving and democracy longing people as 'saffron revolution' because it was representing the faith (Sasana) of most monks, laity, students and people in Burma; young and brave fighting peacock; the conscious citizens who own yellow paddy fields across the country which will make our country prosperous and free from the current crisis.

Mizzima posted my article the same day, 23rd September. I wrote the same in English under the title 'Yellow Revolution' and was posted in Irrawaddy and Mizzima websites consecutively. After two days, London Times first referred the series of this movement as 'Saffron'. On 25th September, former US Charge d affaires in Rangoon Ms. Prescilla referred this movement as 'Yellow Revolution' in VOA Burmese Service.

During these days, the people and students joined the monk-led movement actively and enthusiastically. The number of demonstrators increased to hundreds of thousands from tens of thousands who took to the streets. The international media such as Boston Globe, United Press International, Washington Post, Economics magazine and Burma expert columnist Larry Jagan first referred this movement as 'Saffron'.

But until that time, the Burmese media had not yet referred the movement as 'Saffron'. Mizzima first used the headline 'The Saffron Revolution has started' on 24th September. Then 'New Era' followed suit on 1st October, Saya Maung Swanyi on 2nd October in Moemakha, and BBC Burmese Service first referred the movement as 'Saffron Revolution' on October 4th. Since then, the people have accepted their September movement as 'Saffron Revolution'. Though the words 'Yellow' and 'Saffron' are different in English, it is the same in Burmese and it is more appropriate to use 'Saffron'.

A friend of mine in Thailand warned me that the Chinese government was very much concerned over the christening of this movement as 'Saffron Revolution'. It is not surprising to see the Chinese government was worrying about coining the term with another colour revolution in the backyard of their country while they are still licking the wounds left by the Great Cultural Revolution and its nightmares. The colour revolutions occurred in Central Asia toppled the communist governments which made the Chinese government understandably nervous and cautious. But this is the serious mistake of the Chinese government not able to comprehend clearly about the nature and phenomenon of Burma.

It is time to continue the struggle to fulfill the unfinished task of the Saffron Revolution. Some are reluctant to use 'Saffron Revolution' as the movement died down due to the brutal suppression of the regime on the halfway to 'democracy' goal. Some preferred to use the term 'revolution' only after complete victory. But we should understand one thing very clearly that we could have laid the foundation of a 'peaceful and non-violent movement' firmly through love and compassion, which firmly believes in compassion and refused to see opponents as an enemy, need striving together for establishing a new era filled with democracy, justice and equality.

In fact, this movement follows the doctrines of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, follows the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's doctrine of peaceful democratic transformation which could deeply impress the peaceful non-violent way in the hearts and heads of many pro-democracy forces. This is the hallmark of this movement. This is the great success for all of us.

We have crossed the 20-year long journey. We have covered a great distance in this long journey. We are still marching towards our goal through various experiences and different encounters in these 20 years. We are building our future democratic state with compassion and knowledge based on our tears and sweat.

This is the sole birthday present we can give to our beloved leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The lone candle we can light on her birthday cake is the eternal truth for all of us. If she is the icon of Saffron Revolution, we must be the saffron flames so that our future will be bright.

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