Freedom is something you cannot take away. It is the natural right of every human being when coming to this world. It should be part of every new human’s life on this planet.
„We want to empower our people; we want to strengthen them; we want to provide them with the kind of qualifications that will enable them to build up their own country themselves. “
Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the main person of Myanmar political life
„With this government everything is so complicated.“
Crying Nini after her experience with the police
Sunday 21 October 2018, I am sitting in a plane which will bring me to the communist country of Vietnam and I am thinking, how fragile the freedom and democracy can be. I am leaving the amazing country of Myanmar with mess in my head and pain in my heart. The experience from few days ago sits still deeply. You travel to Asia to see a different world and a different world you get. The Asian poverty will help you to set new priorities. Besides the clean streets, drinking tap water, educational system or hygiene there is one more thing you usually don’t realize after you return home from a short touristic visit. Something you should appreciate the most – freedom.
It’s a paradox, I am sitting in the plane to a communist country and suddenly, I don’t need to think about having a micro in my room or if I will find my room the same as I have left it before leaving for a run to the park. If they know everything about me or more the opposite, they don’t care about me at all. Most likely the second, however the feeling of safety I was traveling with through the country during the past weeks is gone. Cannot help myself…
In my mind, I am getting back in time, sitting at the organized meeting of few charity organizations few days ago. Behind closed door and with the participation of Islamic communities too, important to mention. Fascinated of being here, even if not understanding a single word, the participation opens new horizons. The project „Civic and Religion’s Alliance for Interfaith Peace and Role of Law Education and Promotion“, which has been running under the organization Share Mercy since two years already, is something special. Especially when looking at the country’s latest militaristic history, when Buddhists attacked the minorities, mainly the Muslims, the project is a change which can bring Myanmar forwards. The meeting finishes and I am happy that at its end I could introduce myself and my running activities, and to wish the charities all the best in what they do. Burma needs people like you!
In the middle of the meeting one of its organizers suddenly leaves the room with bunch of papers and I don’t necessarily think this is important. She will return only after the meeting, with three slimy and unsympathetic guys. One of them shakes my hand but it’s a snake’s shake, one of these shakes, which doesn’t tell you anything good about the person. He starts asking questions related to my stay in the country, my participation on the meeting, about who I am, and many more. At this point I already know that this is a representative of the authorities, back at home I would probably call him a major of the township. The other gentlemen are police in undercover. Luckily my job thought me to speak a lot but to say a very little the same time. The interview finishes and later that day I get to know, that my answers and participation on the meeting didn’t bring up against my new friends, more the opposite.
Now the full picture. Someone from the neighbourhood saw the Muslims coming to the meeting and called the police. Without being interested into what they are doing there and only because „this is a Buddhist community, they have nothing to do here!“. They were invited for a meeting behind the closed door, which is (still) legal in the country and for which a charity organization approved by the government doesn’t need a permission of police or the town. Our brave organizer saw a few police dogs with and without uniforms sniffing around the building, so she went out checking, without having someone in the room noticing this. They transported her to the police station, where she was investigated… 50 man against one woman. Rude, arrogant, abusive, making the biggest criminal out of her. Despite the fact she was wearing a Buddha picture on her working notebook, they enforced her to write, to check by the writing if she is not a Muslim. They have threatened to damage the project and that they will make troubles. Her tears and sobs that evening are eyes-opening and will only confirm, how difficult the life is for the very small part of the Myanmar population, the one which is not following the crowd like brainless cows and thinks seriously about the future of their country.
All of this just because of a meeting which should bring the ethnic groups closer and not carry them away from each other. All of this in a country, where even the charity organizations cannot work without being constantly persecuted and hunted. All of this in a country, where the latest Constitution should grant ethical freedom and dialogue.
Article nr. 348 of the Constitution, 2008:
The Union of Myanmar shall not discriminate any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth.
Myanmar everyday democracy in reality. It is not the clean streets, hygiene, drinking tap water or education system, which makes us so different. You can get used to all of this within days, you will accept it. It is the difference to go to the pub and insult all your politicians such as Fico, Kiska, Babiš and Zeman… walk away after few beers and… nothing will happen. You will be able to continue living your carefree life like nothing would have happened. Without questions from police or fear about your existence.
Freedom is something you cannot take away. It is something which every human being on this planet should be born with. Which every human being of our western world is born with – and we should be thankful for such blessing. Realizing how important this is, I did only that evening in a car which was zipping through the night Yangoon…
Nie každý vie cestovať s očami otvorenými realite a nepodliehať klasickým turistickým zidealizovaným myšlienkam a tomu, čo ti vláda chce predstaviť ako podstatu krajiny. Veľmi presne si zachytil realitu Mjanmarska pod povrchom náboženských názorov a predstieranej demokracie – v tomto aj v ďalšom tvojom príspevku o Rohingya. Ja v Mjanmarsku žijem už tri roky a stále odkrývam tajomstvá tejto krajiny, ktorej outsider asi nikdy nebude schopný porozumieť. Ešte potrvá dlho, kým ľudia budú môcť povedať, že Mjanmarsko je skutočne demokratické, no jedno, čo na Mjanmarčanoch obdivujem je ich vytrvalosť a viera v zmeny. Ani Slovensko po 20 rokoch nie je naozaj demokratické, takže pomaly, ale isto. Prajem veľa hlbokých cestovateľských zážitkov a sily v pokračovaní v tvojom cool poslaní, ktoré ťa spája s odvážnymi changemakers!
~Not everyone is able to travel with eyes open to the true reality that can only be discovered when you talk to locals and keep uncovering the layers under the shine and beauty of any country (what the tourism industry wants you to see). You captured the real Myanmar very well (here and in your post about Rohingya); what is under the surface of deep-rooted and often extreme religious opinions and pretended democracy. Some things are hard to change, especially as the Tatmadaw continue to hold power over critical areas of immigration, security and internal affairs. I’ve lived in Myanmar for 3 years now and still discover the multilayered nature of reality here. It’ll take a long time until people will be living in a truly democratic state – it took 20 years in Slovakia and it’s still far from perfect. But with people’s resilience & hope I am optimistic! Good luck with connecting deeper on your travels with inspiring changemakers and continue running for a good cause 🙂