People of 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Magazine

COVER STORY

People of 2006


By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.12


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Thet Win Aung was sentenced to 52 years in prison, a draconian sentence that was later extended to 59 years and then to 60 years. He was severely tortured during interrogation. Moreover, he was sent to malaria-ridden prisons in the northwestern part of Burma, far from his family. Malaria paralyzed him from the waist down, confining him to a wheelchair. One of my mutual friends, who was confined with him in Mandalay Prison until late 2005, told me that prison authorities sold for their own profit medications provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, substituting Chinese-made knockoffs for political prisoners. When political prisoners, including Thet Win Aung, refused to take these medications, they were punished by a variety of means, including solitary confinement.

I could not find any words to console Thet Win Aung’s father when I spoke to him after learning of the death of my dear friend. At the depth of his sorrow, I felt I was with him sharing what the writer Barrington Moore Jr has called “the unity of misery.”

Min Zin is a Burmese broadcaster at Washington-based Radio Free Asia (Burmese Section)


 Leaders

Three Burmese Kings

And An Admiring Junta

The three Burmese kings Anawrahta, Bayintnaung and Alaungpaya are not only held in high esteem by the people, they are also revered by the ruling military government. This was revealed when three large statues to them were unveiled in Naypyidaw on Armed Forces Day this year.

The three kings are considered heroes of Burmese history, responsible for making the country strong.

King Anawrahta was the founder of the First Burmese Empire from 1044-1077, based in Pagan in central Burma. King Bayintnaung, who reigned from 1551-1581, consolidated the second Burmese empire with his capital in Pegu. With a powerful army, he expanded his territory to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and also occupied Ayutthaya in central Thailand and some parts of Laos and Cambodia. King Alaungpaya, 1752-1760, founded the Konbaung Dynasty and the Third Burmese Empire.

Could it be that today’s military leaders want to be compared with the kings as they seek to consolidate power by trying to conquer all of Burma’s ethnic regions.

—Shah Paung


Gen SurayudChulanont

A consumate professional

By Poksak Nilubol

I still have in mind the excellent impression I got of Gen Surayud when I first met him in August 2003 in the garden of the Thai ambassador’s residence in Stockholm during an official visit he made to the Swedish capital as supreme commander of the Thai armed forces. During a few hours of lively conversation, I discovered in him a certain number of inherent qualities: righteousness, integrity, honesty, modesty, moderation, a sense of compassion and a strong dose of self-discipline.

I said to myself at the time that, with such a character, Surayud would never be an inactive, retired general. My prediction came true. When I met him again, in Bangkok in June this year, he had already been appointed a privy counsellor.

The announcement of his nomination as prime minister did not surprise me. With conflict still present in the heart of Thai society because of the Thaksin regime, and the “undercurrents” provoked by his remnants—apart from the security problems in the three southern provinces—Thailand needed to put the right man in the right job. Surayud is certainly the man most able to cope with such issues and pave the way to national reconciliation and the emergence of the political reform Thailand so badly needs.

Regarding Burma, it is our earnest hope that with Surayud, who sympathizes with the ethnic minorities from Burma and who is well aware of the political situation in that country, kindness and humanitarian assistance to the Burmese displaced persons along the border will be more focused.

Poksak Nilubol is a retired Thai ambassador


Bo Mya

Life-long revolutionary

By Ashley South

Bo Mya was born in the Papun hills of Karen State in 1926. Having served with the British towards the end of World War II, he was active from the early days of the Karen insurgency.

An able field commander, Bo Mya was promoted rapidly during the 1950s and 60s, as ideological differences wracked the Karen nationalist movement. In 1963, under the influence of his wife, he joined the Seventh Day Adventist church and subsequently adopted a strong anti-communist stance.



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