Sunday, September 27, 2009

Three heroes, one day in Rangoon.

To commemorate the second anniversary of the 2007 Burma monks' uprising, JOTMAN.COM presents three accounts of the events of September 26, 2007.  These short passages are from much longer interviews conducted by Jotman at the Thai-Burma border in October 2007.   

U Sandawara

For U Sandawara these days were a big blur. He is fuzzy on the dates. The monastery raid he describes here may have occurred as early as the night of September 25 (The night when many Rangoon monasteries where first raided).

U SANDAWARA:  We heard shots fired into the air by USDA troops. We knew a raid of our monastery was now underway.

"The aged, the old monks and very young novice couldn't run away. Actually those monks hadn't even joined the protest, but they suffered terribly. They were beaten up and taken away. There was not enough time for us to wake them up.

"The troops broke everything. They decapitated Buddha statues. Then they took all the monks' property: our alms bowls, even the monks' clothes, our robes. . .

You can read the whole story of the "4 escaped monks" here

U Pan Cher

U Pan Cher had given many speeches to onlookers during the protests, but the aftermath of a speech he gave on the afternoon of September 26th still moved him. I saw that tears were forming in U Pan Cher’s eyes as he described the scene that followed.

U PAN CHER: I'm very sad. I really respect those people over seventy or eighty who joined together with us. I feel very bad. These people were of the age that we look after. They should be able to rest in their homes. But they came out to be with us, giving their lives for the country. . .

"When we reached to Minigon Pagoda in Alon Township of Rangoon, I got worried about our security -- a lot of old people and also young students were with us by then. I asked some people if they could find some bicycles to go and check on the situation up in front, for our safety. A woman about 25 or 30 years of age who had been cooking food by the side of the street volunteered. Leaving her food stand, she took her own bicycle.

"As far as I know, she was the first person to get shot."  (His eyes filled with tears again) 

Ycan read U Pan Cher full account of how some protesters survived the crackdown in Burma.

Ashin Kovida
JOTMAN: What happened on the 26th? (Note: here is my summary of news reports out of Burma on 09/26, and for further context here is my September timeline ).

ASHIN KOVIDA: On the 26th the security was very tight. I was at She Shwedagon -- around a kind of bonze Buddha in front of Swadagon. At the times the main roads in Rangoon inside the city were blocked by the security.

JOTMAN: And the protest continued?

ASHIN KOVIDA: The people couldn't go close to the Shwedagon Pagoda. But fortunately about 300 monks and townsfolk reached it, taking sneaky routes to get there. And as soon as they arrived in the compound, the security immediately came out and pushed them away, telling them to "move, move, move," forcing them down the streets. . .

"So they were blocked, and they couldn't go anywhere . . . ."

Ashin Kovida's story continues here.   More stories about the 2007 Burma protests and aftermath listed here.    See also The Burma (Myanmar) Interviews.  All photos by Jotman.  

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