justice(2007-04-03 11:34:19, Hit : 15838
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 2007 winner of 10th Award

  About  Dr. Salai Tun Than

Dr. Salai Tun Than is 78 years old, but he has had to live in a foreign country since he was exiled from his country by the military government under the pretence of his fighting for the democratization in Burma against the long military dictatorship and the ruthless suppression of human rights. He was a professor of University of Yangon, and a dean of Yezin University. It is widely known that he went on strike alone in front of the City Hall of Yangon for the first time in the Burman history.

In front of the City Hall of Yangon, Dr. Salai Tun Than was shouting, "The military regime of Burma must return the reins of government to the people of Burma!" but he was arrested and held in custody. In March next year, he was sentenced to seven years in jail in violation of Article 5 of the Emergency Measure Act(established in 1950). Dr. Salai Tun Than and 17 other prisoners of conscience were released from jail by the appeasement policy of the military government in 2003. In spite of the military regime's warning, he continued to go on strike alone after he was set free, but finally he had to be separate from his family in 2005. He was forcedly exiled from Burma to the United States. Since then, however, he has been appealing to the governments and all people of conscience in the world to join the democratization in Burma, traveling from the United States to Europe and Asia.

Greetings Speech

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very much honored to be bestowed the 10th Award of Tji Hak-Soon Justice and Peace Award for 2007. I am sure this award is meant not only for me but also for all the people who are struggling bravely for Justice and Peace and also for those people who have given their lives for democracy in Burma.
Burma or Burma is almost twice the size of Japan surrounded by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, Thailand and the Indian Ocean. Its landscape includes snow-capped mountains, rain forests, fertile valleys, and 1650 miles of coastline. It has a population of 52 million with numerous ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages.
The national groups of Burma signed the Charter of Agreement of National Convention held in Panlong in 1947. This Agreement stated that they all would live peacefully as a Federal Union with full equality and justice for national groups. Consequently Burma gained independence from the British on the 4th of January 1948. Our first democratically elected Prime Minster was U Nu. However, General Ne Win and his cohorts overthrew the democratically elected government and took over the state power by force in 1962. This Junta transformed its name to Burmese Way to Socialism and it was headed by General Ne Win.
Since his administration was abhorred by almost everybody, there was a general uprising all over Burma in 1988. The military retook the state power again by killing thousands of dissidents and renamed itself as SLORC held a multiparty general election as promised in 1990. But it did not honored its promise when NLD or National League for Democracy Party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of our late leader General Aung San, won the election by a landslide. Instead the SLORC arrested NLD and many other party leaders and killed many people again. Many students and politically conscious people in Burma have no place except as insurgents, expatriates, and in the jails. In fact, Burma as a whole country is an enormous prison and it has become a police state overnight. Later the chief of SLORC was made to retire and SLORC was metamorphosed again as SPDC or State Peace and Development Council headed by the present General Than Shwe.
The SPDC treads a new road of gross human rights violation and transfigured as a chauvinistic super Bama dictatorship and acts like a horrifying fiend. The following are a few atrocities committed by them and described here in brief.    
1. The International Confederation of Free Trade Union believes that more than one million people are subjected to forced labors in Burma.                    
2. Burma is believed to have more child soldiers than any other country in the world. There are more than 70,000 child soldiers in Burma Army as of now.
3. The military government has destroyed over 3000villages and placed mine around those villages so that the villagers thus driven out cannot go home anymore but become Internally Displaced Persons(IDPS). Moreover their belongings are taken by the soldiers.
4. It is estimated that over 30,000 women and children have been trafficked into Thailand and China where they are kept as sex slaves.
5. Ethnic young women including the disabled are mass raped by the Burmese soldiers. Though the SPDC denied the incidents yet no UN human rights rapporteurs are allowed to go into Burma to investigate about it.
6. Ethnic people are not allowed to teach their culture to their children and some of the ethnic cultural artifacts are destroyed completely by the military government.
7. Non-Buddhist and ethnic soldiers cannot get promotion beyond the rank of major in the Burmese military service however deserving they are.
8. The worst and most prevalent bribery in the world can be found in the Burma administration where the higher the post the more insatiable they get. But only small fry are caught intermittently and punished.
9. Inflation from the beginning of military tookover(1962) until today (2007) is more than 200 times or 20,000 percent. However, the SPDC is enjoying the ruined economy by hoarding U.S. dollars in the banks of neighbouring countries for safety.
10. Burma or Burma was once the richest country in the region before the military took over. But now it is one of the poorest countries in the world.
11. Christian churches and other non Buddhist places of worship either set on fire or destroyed and to add salt to the wound Christians have to build Buddhist monasteries and temples at those burnt sites.
12. Many Buddhist monks are also beaten, imprisoned, killed, or derobed. There is no freedom of worship at all.
13. Buddhist students who go to pray to the pagodas are driven out by USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) which is the civil society of the military government and pagoda trustees.
14. Most of the medicines found in Burma drug stores are either imitations or less potent ones. They are mostly manufactured in our neighbouring countries especially for export to Burma. This is illustrated by then exodus of the SPDC sick generals to either Bangkok or Singapore for their medical treatment.
15. Burma education was once one of the best in Asia as students from Asia and Africa flocked to our universities. As of now Burma education is the worst in the world and SPDC generals children can be found in Bangkok and Singapore high schools and universities.
16. The SPDC has arrested and imprisoned more than 2000 politically related people. In spite of their trickle release there are still over 1200 prisoners in Burma jails.
17. State sponsored assassinations are rampant. The most visible one is The killing field of Depeyin where our leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi barely escaped with some injuries. She is now under house arrest on the pretext of safe guarding her from her killer hoodlums.
18. Political prisoners may be sentenced to a certain period. Some sentences are unheard of in this world such as over hundred years imprisonment. At the end of political prisoners’ sentences the terms of their sentences are simply extended yearly by word of mouth.
19. No one can trust the statements and news issued by the junta. The military government declared that the country is peaceful yet they promote sporadic bombings without ever catching the culprit except verbal accusations. The pretext is to search peoples’ homes and pedestrians without warrants.
20. According to the UN program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Burma is estimated as the home of 400,000 people living with HIV/AIDS which is the highest in the region and the 15th highest in the world.
21. Burma continues to be one of the worlds top producers of opium which is basic ingredient to make heroin. Burma is also one of the largest producers of the methamphetamine drug. The drug money is helping to support the military government and thus the SPDC is known as narco-dictatorial government.

Minorities are bullied by the SPDC at their will. These ethnic peoples have to bear their untold sufferings with groans and tears as they cannot defend themselves even legally. When they rise up to defend themselves from the injustice inflicted upon them naturally they become insurgents since the junta has illegally acquired state power and the military might. The minorities are always in the no win all the time. Burmese military government could be accused rightfully of anything outside the UN Security Council. In the UN Security Council they have 2 faithful and powerful godfathers who claim that they are the champions of the world in defending exploited workers and oppressed people. However, their statements and deeds in the UN rarely tally one another and many times opposite performances are observed. Besides, Burmas neighbours willingly comply with the demands of the junta in the name of commerce. Many of our neighbours are joyous and pleased to exchange the birth right of democracy with a bowl of commerce pea soup. However, I would like to remind my neighbours to have trade with a democratic country is much more profitable in the long run than eternal haphazard and often hijacked border trades with the Burmese military government .
The understanding of the UN by the SPDC is a toothless tiger and it is nothing but a huge international debating society.
The UN as a world organization has no power to tame the cruel government because of the 2 ogre-like godfathers wearing respectful masks of holy men and our near sighted neighbour countries.
While I am speaking or eating good food, I can see in my mental eyes the running about of my fellow citizens to escape the brutality of Burmese soldiers leaving behind their homes and belongings or sometimes gazing with glassy eyes at the blazing balls of fire burning their homes; some young women running away from the rapist Burmese soldiers.
The groaning and moaning of dying people afflicted by the dictators guns. I can also visualize thousands of my fellow country men toiling laboriously without pay as forced labourers; and many other miserable people travailing with sweat for meager pay. Yes, for Justice and Peace in Burma we need a true and functioning democracy with full human rights. For all the illegal deeds and injustice, we have to fight back.
Of course there are many ways to fight for democracy in Burma. Many people of Burma have taken arms just to acquire democracy. However, there is another way to acquire democracy for Burma without taking arms. We can fight back injustice by peaceful means without any violence. The late Mahatama Gandhiji had formulated this nonviolent struggle which shook the never-sun-set British empire and led to Indias independence.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luthur King devotedly followed the path of Gandhiji and earned abolition of segregation in the United States. He even devised six principles as follows:
1. Gather information: It is already accumulated in abundance in the case of Burma.
2. Educate others: The media has been doing this faithfully but the expatriates still have to try hard for the awareness of the world.
3. Remain committed: This is the duty of all expatriates and political activist inside Burma.
4. Peacefully negotiate: The offer of peaceful negotiation is carried out time and again and its offer is still kept alive.
5. Take action peacefully: There are many activists inside Burma who dare to take peaceful actions in spite of the consequences. In this principle I would like to add 3 more pertinent stratagems here.
    (a) The action should involve beyond the borders of the problems. Again this is carried out fittingly by many expatriates and the media.
    (b) The action must take place in 3 dimensional phases. For this we have tried through arms struggle, pleaded for appropriate action to our neighbouring countries, ASEAN countries,
         Asian countries, EU countries, Australia and New Zealand, North American countries, the UN and lastly I humbly beg S.Africa to have sympathetic recognition of our suffering with their past to help us in acquirement of democracy by peaceful means.
    (c) The action must be carried out with sacrifice and if needed, be accompanied by genuine love and forgiveness even if it takes your life. The sixth principle of Dr. King is
6. Reconcile: The reconciliatory gesture of extension of our hands is still alive with sincerity.

I believe in non-violence, prayer changes things and love conquers all. In my own capacity I had demonstrated solitarily and peacefully to establish a democratic government in front of Yangon city hall in 2001. It earned me 7 years of imprisonment. After serving one and one half years in Insein jail, I carried out a hunger strike until death as I could not stand their inhumane treatment of political prisoners, ostracizing of ethnic people in the jail, persecution of religion, especially Christianity, and bugging of Dr. P.S.Pinhiero, the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur. The prison authorities promised me to comply with my demand and released me after 4 days of the strike 2003, before I could witness their pledge. I went to U.S.A in 2005 to see my children. When I was here in U.S.A., I persuaded the military government to install a democratic government, without any fruitful result. Then I tried to go back to Burma via Japan and Korea in June 2006 stating that I would demonstrate peacefully in the air-port if the junta did not comply with my request. There were some foreigner friends who were going to accompany me in my return journey to Burma. Since the military government nullified my passport and instructed Thai Air Way not to issue me a boarding pass, naturally I became a stateless person temporarily. However, I was lucky as the U.S. government willingly granted me an asylum and I am very thankful.
Evil should not be repaid with evil. Before I went to the Bangkok air port I intimated to the junta that I would go back to Burma even if they killed me. Yet the military government would be forgiven though they exterminate me not only on this earth but all the lives to befall in samsara: I, as a mighty man and they, as weaklings even then I would always extend my helping hand. If I found them hungry, I would feed them to their fill, naked I would clothe them decently, stricken with sores and diseases I would heal them whole, and wandering aimlessly in the darkness of their lives I would hold their hand tenderly and lovingly and usher them to their brighter lives.
Anyone can return evil to evil but to return love and forgiveness is indeed very difficult. It did not come easy to me-only after repeated meditations and prayers earnestly and sincerely. As of now I really can forgive them and love them and dare to protect their lives if they were in danger.
Before I left Burma I promised myself that I would go back to Burma only for the purpose of acquirement of democracy even if it takes my life for which I am prepared to return it with forgiveness and love.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen the task I promise myself is still undone and I owe it to myself and God. I have to state again that I believe in nonviolent, prayer changes things, and love conquers all.
Thus I would like to implore my audience, the great American people: please propagate and convey my message not only in your churches and temples but also to your friends all over the world to pray for democracy in Burma.
Yes, I also would like to beseech from this rostrum to all religious leaders of the world please remember that Burma or Burma is under a very cruel military dictatorship where human rights, peace and justice are un?heard of. Please pray for the acquisition of democracy in Burma without bloodshed and with thorough reconciliation.
I have been pleading to God to provide me with some cash so that I could use it for the activity of democracy acquisition in Burma. God has answered my prayer through the kindness of your venerable Bishop Tji Hak?Soon Justice and Peace Foundation. I would like to assure the directors of this respectful foundation of Justice and Peace that every penny of this award will be spent meaningfully for the acquisition of democracy. I am sure that this award is meant not only for my activity alone but also for all the people in Burma who pursue democracy peacefully. I am certain that this award is entrusted to me by this wonderful foundation to show that God truly loves Burma and is ready to deliver democracy to the Burmese people.
In conclusion I would like to promise that I certainly will go back to Burma again before the end of this year in the name of Christ and Love confessed by all religions. i would like to declare that I shall not try and survive and live on a bended-knee position under Burmese dictatorship but rather die with stretched out legs wearing forgiveness and love on my face. This award has made me doubly determined to sow God's acts of love through my action. Let us hope and pray that Burma will be a democratic country by this time of next year without any animosity and bloodshed but with love and all-out reconciliatory smiles.
Please pray for me and may God bless this truly respectful Justice and Peace Foundation and the great Korean people. Thank you.

2008 winner of 11th Award
2005-Winner of 9th Award

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