There Is Only One Way This Can End Without Bloodshed.
An Open Letter To General Min Aung Hlaing
There is only one way this can end without bloodshed, but you won’t hear it if you won’t listen. While the whole world is protesting and pressuring you, I’m going to try and reason with you. After all, you are so used to weathering out criticism, and I have hoped that perhaps empathy will have a different effect on you.
I’ll start with a quick tale of two young women. One of them is from Myanmar and called Mi Cho. The other is a Sri Lankan girl named Chanethi. Just a few days before you took Myanmar by force, Mi Cho has successfully applied to Monash University, to study her dream subject of Art and Design. Mi Cho was at least two years younger then the usual applicants in this subject at Monash and she will not be able to move to Australia due to COVID-19. However, she has worked so hard, and her work was so impressive that not only did she get in, she was approved to take her course online, and she received a sizable study grant. She was going to be one of the first generations of Myanmar who will obtain a specialist skillset, without having to leave her family. Can you imagine? A young Myanmar woman presents her new and awesome ideas to her classmates in Australia and industry leaders worldwide. When class is over, she can skip down to Shwedagon Pagoda with her childhood friends and then stop for a bowl of Mohingha on her way back home.
But just a few days, after she accepted her offer and her grant, because of YOUR decisions, not hers — she had to withdraw her admission acceptance and return her grant. How will she study online when you threatened to shut down connection with the world and how will her parents secure her tuition, when you have introduced such economic instability?
Chanethi, on the other hand, has already received her degree in aerospace engineering and is currently a PhD student at Monash. She is working on an integrated rapid cannulation device that will change extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as ECMO. It is the top of emergency medicine where instruments can now provide prolonged heart and breathing support to persons whose heart and lungs have failed. Her device will not only change this life-saving technology, but it will also enable people to do this procedure at any emergency side — including the side of a road — maybe even the side of a highway in Dawei one day.
Chanethi is doing all this while living with her family in Sri Lanka. She got married in a traditional ceremony, and submitted a paper to be published in a leading biomedical engineering journal — the same week, Mi Cho had to withdraw from her dream.
I am telling you about these two young women because first I want you to know that Mi Cho, I and the rest of Myanmar knows too well what it feels like to have our aspirations ripped away from us. I think you also felt this recently when your party did not win the seats you wanted to win, and your hopes of being the leader of our nation disappeared. It hurt so much that you manufactured a great lie and acted so rashly – devastating the nation you vowed to serve. I want you to know that the anger, disappointment, and fear that you felt, the rest of Myanmar have felt for decades under the rule of your colleagues. The only difference is that you at least got to feel this pain through a free and fair outcome, we felt it under repression.
What is happening in our country right now is a clashing of pain — yours and ours.
The second reason I am telling you these two stories is that I want you to realise the sharp difference between the two nations. When your predecessors took power in the 1960s, most of us were still dealing with the impacts of colonisation and a world war. Although countries like Russia and America were reaching for the moon, the rest of us, the colonised and the bullied found ourselves dragging behind. Backed by the fear and anger of having been violated, many other leaders in the world acted the way you did last week, and it only caused further damage to the already suffering.
However, today, this is no longer the case for many of our neighbours. Our neighbouring countries have recovered and are now contributing to a better world, but we stayed in the mud. South-East Asia’s once powerhouse regressed because this is what happens when you repress a nation with fear.
We saw hope over the last nine years. When your colleagues gained just a bit of confidence and a glimmer of courage to let a nation grow, many things changed. Myanmar developed low-cost irrigation robots and agricultural drones for farming. It sought to teach the rest of the world, how we have learned to speak to river dolphins and engage in sustainable cooperative fishing with nature. I personally saw footage from a divemaster in Myeik, who has gathered sufficient evidence that the world’s largest and healthiest soft coral reef kingdom is in Myanmar. The study of its eco-system can help replenish soft corals around the world, which will, in turn, prevent much of the cyclones and floods that have devastated the world over. On our family farm, a meek and humble farmer was able to look at how the rest of the world has to teach him on beekeeping. In turn, he has done some experiments of his own. Before you cut the connection between us, I was helping him write a paper on his extremely effective and novel method to sustainably and rapidly promote the growth of queen bees — a solution to the pressing queen bee shortage problem in the world. Myanmar was recovering and contributing.
Surely you must have heard the pain and the anger of our people. No matter what your propaganda machines, are telling you, surely you must have overheard to the truth at some point — you just chose to continue your denial.
The current situation can end in bloodshed or peace. Every other pathway, except for one, will end in bloodshed, yours or ours.
Right now, the most effective, the quickest, and the only peaceful way for all this to end is for you to respect the votes of the Myanmar people. You hold all the power right now, let me be the first to give you that. But let me also remind you that how you wield that power will decide whether Myanmar will face it’s future with pride, or in blood and tears. If you choose to use your strength to reinstate that which was only right, all of this ends today — in peace. And Myanmar will continue her journey towards progress.
Lastly, U Min Aung Hlaing, I want to leave you with a critical point that perhaps no one else has pointed to you. Only one of you will ever be able to make the decision to turn to true freedom and dignity for the Myanmar people. Under the current conditions, anybody — anyone who ousts you, or come after you can decide to repress a nation at gunpoint. But only one person from Tatmadaw will have a chance to make the decision to return freedom to Myanmar for once and for all. Let it be you.
You have proven to the world that you are a warrior and a formidable general. Let us see the leader in you. With just one command, you can flood our land with joy, or with blood. You alone can choose to be just another tyrant in a list of tyrants or a leader that freed the nation. What will it be?
Dr Nyein Chan Aung