Ill Be Back in the Evening: The Life of a Burmese Dissidents Mother


Daw Hla Kyi, pictured here with her son Min Ko Naing following his release in 2004. Photo: AFP

Daw Hla Kyi is the mother of Min Ko Naing, a prominent student leader of the 1988 Burmese pro-democracy movement who served a total of 18 years in prison before his release in 2004/ Min Ko Naing was detained again by Burma’s military government on Sept. 27, 2006. In this interview with RFA’s Burmese service, broadcast on Oct. 16, 2006, Daw Hla Kyi discussed her role as the mother of one of the country’s prisoners of conscience:

“I just assumed that they were taking [my son] away only for a short time. They had been taking him away often, and this was the third time. Since it was the third time, I wasn’t worried, thinking that they would bring him back in the evening...”

“He said, ‘Mother, they’re here to take me away. I’ll be gone for a short time. I’ll come back in the evening.’ And so, when I looked at him, his hair was messy, so I said, ‘Son, put some coconut oil in your hair.’ I put some coconut oil and combed his hair neatly. He said, ‘Mother, don’t be worried. I’ll be back in the evening.’”

I don't want to say anything [to the officials detaining my son]. Since they are doing their job, and my son is doing his job, I don't want to say anything about this.

“I still thought he would be back the next day. It was because they sent someone to bring his clothes that night. ‘Please send a set of clothing for him,’ they said. Since they took a pair of pants, a shirt, a towel, toothbrush and toothpaste, I thought he’d be back in the morning. When he didn’t return the next day...I was like a nursing mother who just wants to watch the face of the infant non-stop.”

Strong Buddhist faith

“My son doesn’t take care of himself, you know. I have to tell him often, ‘Son, take your medicine. Take your medicine.’ I myself am not healthy. I have high blood pressure. I have heart disease. But I don’t pay attention to myself. I just tell my son to do so. Even then I don’t think it’s enough. I write on a white card, ‘Son, take your medicine,’ and put it in a place where he can see.”

“Since my son was in the seventh grade, I have sent all of my children to the Wipatthana Meditation Center in turn. And so they understand the Dharma of the Lord Buddha. I ingrained it in them. Also, he is a very gentle person by nature. That’s why he knows the difference between right and wrong. That’s why I believe that he would not engage in a wrong deed. I fully believe that. Since birth, everyone has to face the eight facts of life. And now, too, I believe that we are just facing the facts of life.”

“Since he was about 26 years old, my son has not had a chance to really pay his respects to his mother. He has been away from his parents and elders. Only when he was 42 did he get back to his parents and have a chance to pay his respects to his mother on his birthday. Now, at the age of 44, he doesn’t have a chance to pay his respects again. I believe that I am a mother who has given birth to a good son. Another thing is that he is a self-sacrificing person who works for the good of the people.”

Donations on son's behalf

“[On his birthday] even though he’s not around, I donate food to the meditation center and the monastery every year for his birthday. Now also, even though he’s not around, I’m going to donate food and robes for the monks. I’ll do that. Also, I’ll invite the friends that he loves and give them food. I’ll make good this way. That’s my plan.”

“Even though my little son is not here at home, I just picture in my mind that he is sitting and paying homage to his parents, and I pray that my little son will be healthy and happy, and I send him my love. And also, since my son is a self-sacrificing person who does not work for himself but for other people, I pray that he will be a good and noble man on whom others can rely. Similarly, families that are suffering like I am have sons who are away from the shelter of their parents. I pray that these sons will be back in the arms of their parents as soon as possible.”

“I don’t want to say anything [to the officials detaining my son]. Since they are doing their job, and my son is doing his job, I don’t want to say anything about this.”

“He is very considerate toward his parents. Since he’s a sensitive person, he never talks about his work because he’s worried that his parents might become sad. Even for his health, when he is not feeling well, he keeps it inside and tries to keep his parents happy. I believe that my son is a very honest, innocent, and righteous person.”

Original reporting in Burmese by May Pyone Aung. Translated by Than Than Win. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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