Monks Leader Detained: A Mothers Lament

2007-11-16
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Monks protest in Rangoon. Photo: AFP

A 29-year-old leading monk in the recent demonstrations against the Burmese military regime, U Gambira, has been charged with treason by the junta, according to his family. The punishment for high treason in Burma is a life sentence or death. U Gambira was arrested from a hiding place in Kyaukse, central Burma, in early November. His mother, Daw Yay , spoke to RFA's Burmese service, and read a poem she composed:

In Mother's Heart Oh, I felt disheartened at first. My older son is in jail. My daughter-in-law does not dare to come home. My older son has three little girls. With their parents in a distant place, they are all by themselves. My son, the monk, and my husband are on the run. The rest of the family are panicky. My heart is full of worries for them. My tears are falling. On top of that, this has been getting in the way of my livelihood. And I have to take care of it. Now they say they have arrested U Gambira. Where do they say his father is? How do I console myself for these things? Who can help me from these troubles and sadness? It's not right.

But no! I have a son called Ashin Gambira and a son called Aung Kyaw Kyaw. So many of them. Who are they? These sons, these sons. I have many, many sons. I even have daughters. I have many people in my family. I have a large circle of friends. I won't feel discouraged. I should even be proud of this; I'm even embarrassed to be shedding tears. I, the mother, pray For my husband and children to be healthy For their quick release. I don't have much money, but if you say now you're going to give me millions, I don't want it. If you tell me you're going to give me a pile of diamonds and gold, I don't want it. My only wish is the freedom of my husband, my older son, my middle son, My sons and my daughters. May my sons and daughters be happy because of my love. May you be free as soon as possible.

While we are alive for a short time, we are going to encounter these things.

Ashin Gambira, known now as U Gambira, became a novice when he was 12 years old. His mother recalls his progress in the Buddhist monastic tradition, or Sangha.

At age 12, he became a novice at the Shwegu monastery in Pakokku. Since he was still a child, he remained a novice for about four years. He wore his robe in Shwegu monastery. We asked him to become a lay person again, and when he was 19 years old, we asked him to wear his robe again....He's attained four suttas out of five. I must say that my son is not a fake monk. He's a genuine monk. He's also a real human being.

U Tint Kyweh, the father of U Gambira, was a leader from the town of Pauk in the 1988 democracy movement. After the demonstrations in 1988, when there were going to be elections, he tried to be an independent representative.

I must say that my son is not a fake monk. He's a genuine monk. He's also a real human being.

My husband put up 10,000 as a deposit as a future member of parliament, as an independent. Since he made a deposit like this, he was put in prison. He was to take that road, of course. We also lost that 10,000.

My father-in-law was from a village near the industrial zone in Meittila. He was a monk during the British era. British and Indian soldiers entered the Eindawya Temple compound without taking off their shoes. He was fluent in Indian and English languages, and so he told them not to wear their footwear in this compound, in accordance with Buddhist tradition. They didn't take off their shoes. So my father-in-law, he tried to chop off the neck of the soldier, who ducked and therefore only lost a nose. In Pauk, there's a place called Bo Yasut Hall. Bo Yasut is a relative from my father's side. He was in the revolution against the British, and so they say that he was burned alive...Now that we have become an independent country, of course, they have become heroes and martyrs.

While we are alive for a short time, we are going to encounter these things. The day that we heard the news, all of my sons and daughters were not able to keep their composure. I said, "My sons and daughters, when he does this work, there are only two ways for him: being caught or being free. So just be strong."

Original reporting by RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Than Than Win. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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