Aung San Suu Kyi

Violent raid breaks up Burma mine protest

Thomas Fuller, New York Times: Security forces in Myanmar mounted a violent raid on Thursday against Buddhist monks and villagers who have been protesting the expansion of a copper mine. The crackdown was the largest since the civilian government of President Thein Sein came to power 20 months ago.

Witnesses said dozens of monks and other protesters were injured when the security forces used incendiary devices that set fire to protesters’ encampments outside the offices of the Chinese company in charge of the project. The company has a partnership with the powerful military in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Photos from Burmese online news sites showed …

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Ethnic hatred tears apart a region of Burma

Thomas Fuller, New York Times: The Buddhist monastery on the edge of this seaside town is a picture of tranquillity, with novice monks in saffron robes finding shade under a towering tree and their teacher, U Nyarna, greeting a visitor in a sunlit prayer room.

But in these placid surroundings Mr. Nyarna’s message is discordant, and a far cry from the Buddhist precept of avoiding harm to living creatures. Unprompted, Mr. Nyarna launches into a rant against Muslims, calling them invaders, unwanted guests and “vipers in our laps.”

“According to Buddhist teachings we should not kill,” Mr. Nyarna said. “But when we feel …

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Obama to visit Burma as part of first post-election overseas trip

Peter Baker, NYT: President Obama’s first postelection overseas trip will be this month to Asia, where he is to make a historic visit to Burma as it moves toward democracy and reinforce his desire to reorient American foreign policy more toward the Pacific during his second term.

The White House announced on Thursday that the newly re-elected Mr. Obama would head to an annual international economic summit meeting in Cambodia and stop in Thailand and Myanmar. No sitting American president has visited either Myanmar or Cambodia, allowing Mr. Obama to underscore his commitment to the region.

The trip fits into a larger geopolitical …

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Buddhism’s dirty secret

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One of the things that makes Buddhism an attractive spiritual path for people in the west is its historical track record as a peaceful religion. You’ll often hear western Buddhists say that Buddhism has never had any holy wars, for example. But there’s a but…

Certainly, there’s nothing in the Buddha’s teaching to support violence. In essence, Buddhism is a religion of peace whose teachings have no place even for “righteous anger” or violence as a means of self-defense. As the Buddha said,

“Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred.”

But there have been historical instances of Buddhists resorting to violence, or supporting violence. And there are instances of that in recent times, and those are going on right now. In the recent past there’s been ethnic cleansing in Bhutan, ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, and recently two disturbing reports from Burma (or Myanmar): the forced conversions to Buddhism of Christians, and violence and oppression against the Muslim minority.

Greg Constantine, an award-winning photojournalist from the U.S. and currently based in Southeast Asia, has published the first of a two-part series on the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority, who have faced discrimination in Burma, to the extent that hundreds of thousands have become homeless, many of them spilling over into neighboring Bangladesh, “where they are exploited, unrecognized, denied almost all humanitarian assistance, and in recent years, have faced a growing intolerance toward them by their Bangladeshi hosts.”

In Burma, Constantine says, the Rohingya “face severe restrictions on the right to marry, are subjected to forced labor and arbitrary land seizure and forced displacement, endure excessive taxes and extortion, and are denied the right to travel freely.”

Additionally,

“Most Rohingya are not permitted to travel beyond their village. Family household registers are updated regularly so the authorities know who and how many Rohingya are in each house. Any discrepancies to these records are punishable by fines and arrest.”

This is a disgraceful state of affairs. In a sense, this says nothing about Buddhism, since the principles of Buddhism forbid violence, and since merely adopting the label “Buddhist” does not magically transform people into saints. But in another sense the Burmese government is bringing discredit upon the name of Buddhism by perpetrating these actions. That such suffering is being brought about in a country that proclaims to be Buddhist should be unacceptable to all Buddhists.

Burma has made huge strides forward in the last few years, with the military dictatorship having handed over power to a democratic government. Today, Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing military rule in Burma, is at the White House to meet President Obama and receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Buddhists should hope that she is being asked for an accounting of recent anti-Christian and anti-Muslim actions in Burma, and how they can be ended. This is not to suggest that Suu Kyi is in any way responsible for these actions, or that she approves of them. I’m sure she isn’t, and doesn’t. The forces of reaction in Burma are still strong, with the military insisting on holding 25% of seats in the country’s government, and it’s possible that she’s not in a position to affect these unjust policies. But questions should be asked.

Thein Sein, Burma’s president, is attending the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, presenting another opportunity for Burma to be asked to account for the actions of its security forces. The pressures that helped Burma move from military dictatorship to fragile democracy can perhaps help stop further human rights violations.

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Suu Kyi hopes victory is dawn of new era in Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi claimed victory Monday in Burma’s historic by-election, saying she hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era for the long-repressed country.

Suu Kyi spoke to thousands of cheering supporters who gathered outside her opposition party headquarters a day after her party declared she had won a parliamentary seat in the closely watched vote.

The Election Commission has not yet confirmed the results, but government officials have commented on Suu Kyi’s victory and the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – have reacted with jubilation.

“The success we are having is the success of the people,” Suu Kyi …

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Suu Kyi to spend three days in meditation centre in Rangoon

Myo Thant (Mizzima): National League for Democracy (NLD) General-Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi will go on a three-day retreat in a Rangoon meditation centre from Friday to Sunday, according to Win Htein, the NLD office chief.

“Starting Friday she will spend three days in the meditation centre at the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery to practise meditation,” he told Mizzima. The monastery has three branches in Rangoon and he declined to identify the monastery, but some observers said it is believed to be the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery at “10-Mile Hill” in Rangoon. After her release from house arrest in November 2010, she donated food to monks in the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery…

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Aung San Suu Kyi’s hope for genuine democracy

In a program aired on Feb. 11, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses forgiveness, the importance of being concerned more for others than for oneself, and the benefits of meditation.

Q: I served as the general secretary of the National Democratic Congress Party when I was in Burma, and you stayed with our party when you visited the Kachin State back in 1989. I am very happy to hear that you have now been released from detention. I would like to know what you intend to do to bring about change in our country, what you will do when those changes happen, and how you will maintain those changes. Also, I would like to know how you would change the attitudes and beliefs of the people so that they can adapt to a constitutional democracy, taking into consideration the present situation that people are in.

A: I still remember with gratitude how the National Democratic Congress Party provided me with their kind hospitality during my visit. Once democracy is established in Burma, it will be very important to reform and change the educational system so that the attitudes and habits of a genuine democracy may take root in the society. Additionally, I think that various methods of disseminating news and information, of educating people, and of holding discussions and consultations in a free and open manner must be used to help people understand and participate in this effort of transformation. Since this effort must cover the country as a whole, we must organize to bring about a powerful force of cooperation from the entire country.

Q: I am a Chin ethnic national living in the UK. What kinds of things must one avoid in the process of achieving national reconciliation—especially when working with the ethnic nationality groups? What kinds of things could be a hindrance, and what kinds of things should be encouraged?

A: It is necessary to be able to see others’ points of view, so that there will be understanding and trust among the people. It will be difficult to have an understanding if one focuses only on one’s own wishes and concerns. It is important to have mutual and reciprocal respect for one another in order to have unity among the ethnic nationalities. If this cannot be achieved easily, one can at least develop love and friendship by being sincere and genuinely wishing to accomplish it.

Q: I am part of the Karen community living in Oslo, Norway. The military government has repressed you in many ways. They have given you one problem after another, and have even split up your family, but you have not retaliated in any way. You have focused only on working toward achieving national reconciliation. I can see that is your forgiveness that has allowed you to overcome all your difficulties. Could you tell me what you have done to acquire such a forgiving character?

A: As I see it, there are a lot of other people who have suffered and are continuing to suffer more than I have. So what I have experienced is not worth talking about. I have also been able to calm my mind with the help of the good comrades around me. I think that one can have peace of mind if one concentrates more on what one can do for others rather than thinking about one’s own problems.

Q: I am a Shan national now living in Canada. With regard to the 2nd Panglong Conference, if the conference is held and if ethnic concerns are discussed, issues such as self-administration and self-determination—which the ethnics have been longing for—are bound to be brought up, just as they were at the 1st Panglong Conference. If these issues are discussed, I think it would be very difficult for the military government that now rules the country to participate.

A: The 2nd Panglong is intended mainly to build and develop a genuine spirit of Union. When we discuss issues like self-administration and self-determination, these will be based on that spirit of Union, with the goal of achieving that spirit as well. Since this will be done without harm to anyone, there is no reason for anyone who values the spirit of Union not to participate in the process.

Q: Mother Suu, I am a former soldier. I lost my right leg and right hand due to land-mine injuries while serving in the Burmese military. Now, I am living in the United States. While I was in Burma, my disability pension was 400 kyat (U.S. 50 cents) a month. When I arrived in this country, I received disability assistance of U.S. $674 a month. In this country, if you are over 65 years of age, the government give you a pension whether you have worked for the government or not. The government also provides allowances for housing and food for people who are unemployed. This kind of system does not seem to exist even in communist countries like China. Whenever I hear of older people and the disabled begging for food in our country, I wish that a social welfare system like the one in the United States could quickly be established in Burma. What are your views with regard to this?

A: I would like to applaud and honor the strong will that you have to start a new life in the United States in spite of your physical disabilities. We in our own country would also like to have a social welfare system that would provide security for all those people who are disabled in body or in mind, people who are looking for work, and people who are aged and old. To get this, we need a government that will guarantee democratic rights and maintain a strong treasury. We are working to achieve those goals. May you be healthy and fulfilled with the good things that you desire, my son.

Q: I live in the state of Virginia in the United States. I have heard that you practiced meditation while you were under house arrest. Now that you have been released from detention, have you been able to find time to meditate at all? Also, when I was living in Japan, my Japanese friends would ask me why the Burmese, who are Buddhists, have not been able to get on the road to negotiations. What kind of mental attitude should a Buddhist have?

A: It is true that I do not have the time now to meditate as I did when I was under house arrest, but I am trying my very best to do so. Although the majority of the people in our country are Buddhists, it is hard to know how many of them really take Buddhism to heart. I consider myself only to be at the stage where I am endeavoring to become a good Buddhist. I think that if everyone tries to reduce greed, anger, and illusion as much as they can, we can then quickly get on the road to negotiation.

[via Radio Free Asia]
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Freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi tells of her years under house arrest in Burma

Newly freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi gave an insight Wednesday into the daily routine and inner strength that enabled her to endure years under house arrest in Burma.

“It wasn’t all that difficult,” she told London’s The Times.

“I was in my own home. What was I going through? I was simply sitting in my house. I’ve never been one for going out a lot. I listened to music. I like sketching a bit and so on. I’m a very indoors sort of person, if you like, so it was no great hardship.”

She expressed surprise at any perception that she had gone through great hardship, comparing her treatment with those of the estimated 2100 other political prisoners in Burma.

“What do you think it would be like for those who have been imprisoned for years and years and years?” she asked.

“I had regular meditation sessions. I had a lot to do. Really. People seem to be surprised. You want to keep your house clean and tidy – you have to spend some time doing that. And then, of course, reading takes up time and listening to the radio took up a lot of hours every day because I didn’t want to miss any of the news about Burma.

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Suu Kyi’s 20-year war of wills with Myanmar junta: Profile

Aung San Suu Kyi’s patience and fierce determination have been tested repeatedly during a 20-year war of wills against Myanmar’s military rulers.

Those qualities, honed by a daily morning regimen of Buddhist meditation, have helped her in a battle in which she has effectively spent 15 of the last 20 years under house arrest.

Born June 19, 1945, Suu Kyi (pronounced Sue Chee) was only two when her father, Burmese independence hero General Aung San, was murdered by political rivals.

Her mother, Khin Kyi, served in several posts in the newly independent country, including ambassador to India. Suu Kyi grew up abroad, attending Britain’s Oxford University where she received degrees in philosophy and economics in 1967.

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