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Published on Monday, 10 December 2012 11:29 Written by Than Htut Aung
Than Htut Aung continues his 9th part of 'I will Tell the Real Truth' series.
My father passed away peacefully on December 2, 2012.
Although it is a fact that the last stage of cancer is very difficult to cure, it is of human nature to keep one’s father alive even for one single morning or a day.
Normally a cancer patient can stretch his/her life for three to four months more, but cancer drugs usually weaken the heart. I could console myself that my father had felt the agony and pain for lesser duration.
In fact, my father had taught us “How to live?” and “How to die?” to the very moment before he took his final breath - all of which has been valuable to us.
Moreover, he imparted us with the knowledge how to differentiate between the justice and the injustice, and how to separate the Dharma (right teachings of the Buddha) and the Ah-Dharma (antagonistic and wrongful perception).
He showed the way, as we inherited, to insights into meditation and in facing and enduring the way of the mundane world. It was not just to his children but also to the grandchildren as well.
In the critical last hours, my father showed us how to endure the agony and pain, and “How to pass away peacefully”.
Throughout his lifetime, my father was a healthy person. Last year, he lost his appetite and suffered from anaemia, a condition in which blood is deficient in quantity. He took treatment at a specialist hospital in Yangon as well as at a renowned hospital in Thailand.
The hospital in Thailand diagnosed his condition wrongly dubbed as “Acute Haemolytic Anaemia”, and administered “steroid drugs”.
As the ailment worsened, a second opinion was sought at a hospital in Singapore, and we learnt that the malignant cells had spread to the entire body. After about one month and a half, he passed away.
The cancer growth went wild and rapid because a double dose “steroid drug” was given.
My dad endured the illness until his last breath by forgetting the malady of cancer.
We took lessons of the religious as we witnessed how he faced the agony of cancer. He lived his life practicing the teaching of Buddha since he was 40 years plus of age.
We were worried whether he could still maintain the Dharma consciousness, the preaching of Buddha, until the last portion of the life journey.
Even one has the religious mindset, knowing the reality of death - it is astonishing that human-being clings to and embraces life.
I arrived in Singapore at 4 pm on the very day that my father passed away. When he saw me, his face was shining with radiant. Pretending to be as normal as possible, he said, “You become more handsome” - the last words that he uttered in clear audible sound.
I sat down near him and talked about some of our nostalgic moments for half an hour.
When I asked whether he liked my previous article about him, he smiled and showed a 'like' sign putting his thumbs up.
When I came back to the hospital after checking in at the hotel, my father's breathing had become more rapidly.
My brother and sister including my mother were next to him. At that moment, he tried to talk to me many times.
The speeches were indistinct and garbled, and we thought it was due to his sore throat.
In fact, it was something he wanted to say. (I think he wanted to remind me something as he was always worried about me. He used to tell me to always be careful with my work).
When we couldn't understand his words, my father looked at each of us in the face and his eyes were filled with tears.
Then, he closed his eyes and gestured us to move out from the room. My brother and the nurse remained in the room to clean and removed mucous from the mouth.
Only a few lapsed minutes, the nurse then called us into the room, where we found him dying with his head dropped to one side.
He had just a faint pulse. As we did not want to see him struggling in agony, we avoided administering life saving drugs and treatment, so that he could go in peace.
As I and my brother were talking in soft voices on the memorable events such as the meditation methods taught by our father, the meritorious deeds that we had done together, and the insight meditation that we practiced at “Tant-kyi-taung Pagoda” in Bagan - suddenly my dad completely lost his pulse and passed away peacefully.
What I have noticed is that when someone was dying, he/she could no longer speak. Hands and limbs could not move and the eyes could not see.
And finally, the sensible nerves could feel nothing, and the Nama and the Rupa (soul and body) went into oblivion.
The good and bad deeds rebound as mirage to the dying person. The pattern of death differs between the person with fine merits and the person with bad deeds.
No matter whether he or she had made to charity and observed precepts during the lifetime, if there was no “mindfulness” or insight meditation one may have no proper inspiration and thought at the time of dying.
Even if one had fulfilled donation, observation of precepts and mindfulness, one may never know “How to die properly”, if one had committed murder or hurt five types of holy and sacred persons.
In 2007, a memo of religious preaching and advice being sent from venerable monk “Kyar-khat-waing” Sayadaw of Bago District was read out through the television to the citizens of the country.
I remembered my dad explaining the episode of controversial rules of monks. Some lay persons involved in the matter intended to blame the monks at that time. He said they were sure to fall into the wrong path.
I was of the view that some Buddhist monks might be wrong in terms of “Vinaya” (rules and disciplines to be abided by all monks); however, the Sanghas (monks) are in fact the Sanghas. If the lay persons have no desire at all to pay respect to the monks, one may stay away and stop relationship with certain monks.
My dad told me that one must not go too far and that such wrong persons would have no inspiration “How to die properly”.
The most difficult time for a human being is his/her dying moment. I have no guts to tell my dying dad about the violent crackdown on the Buddhist monks staging sit-in protest at the Letpadaungtaung copper mine project.
Whether the Letpadaungtaung copper mine project is to continue or suspend must be decided by the appointed Commission. However, the Taunggup Commission and the Rakhine Commission in the Rakhine State have yet to disclose their findings, and therefore, the copper mine Probe Commission is required to do more additional works.
I am of the view that the copper mine issue may not move similarly to the Myitsone Hydropower Dam Project in Kachin State.
But the process must ensure transparency. It must be beneficial to the nation and the local areas and communities. In no way the local residents should be undermined and hurt.
This copper mine project was earlier the undertaking of the Ministry of Mines and the Ivanhoe Company, which was sold to Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Chinese Wanbao Company.
UMEHL purchased the scheme from the Ministry of Mines at the price of US$100 million, and the amount was allegedly said to be funded by Chinese-based Wanbao Company.
Compounding the situation into the mess was the involvement of Htoo Trading Company in the buying and selling, while the Chinese Ambassador in Yangon denied that there was neither brokerage fee nor commission payment by the Chinese company.
The matter becomes the responsibility of the Investigation Commission headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ironically, the investment stands at US$997 million and the physically investment amount is said to be US$10 million, supported with a loan of US$987 million. Such triggered serious contemplation.
The Commission needs to find out whether this copper mine project would bring profit or revenue only after 30 years of period similar to the Myitsone Hydropower Dam Project.
What I understand was that the country would enjoy only four per cent revenue over the metal extracted, and that the remaining dividend would be shared when the actual profit is realized.
However, looking into the “Basic Mine Design”, the cost and value of the machinery worked out at US$36 billion - a terrible financial outcome that the country and the UMEHL would only suffer.
It is a bad omen and that the suffering will be the local people. The nation will be deprived of the benefits. Retirees from the armed forces will be in trouble.
Who are then the beneficiaries?
The government and the UMEHL should go into details over the project.
The situation needs statements and information.
Until now, the benefits are far from clear and that the locals are in trouble. The members of Sanghas (Buddhist monks) were violently attacked. The good name of the president was tarnished, and the confidence of international community in Myanmar has been undermined. The stability of the nation was shaken due to the calls of general strike and ongoing dissatisfaction.
Who did this?
Are they the proxies?
Are they the alternatives to cronies?
Are they the fifth columnists or the spies to act what they wanted?
There are many questions to ask.
Despite provocations to suspend the copper mine project, there are opportunities to settle and address it peacefully.
At stake is that the peaceful means to the solution are not applied; and that the people concerned are not aware and has no experience how to apply such ways and means as a democratic government.
Moreover, it is a mere fact that they inherited the legacy and mindset of the previous autocratic system.
After the visit of US President Obama, a spate of problems cropped up in the country.
Tribulations are seen in an expansion and continuation of cronyism, steps backwards in media development, that violent crackdown on the protesters, and indication from the government to curb and turn back democratic tides.
Furthermore, it seems that the hardliners have circled and dominating the government.
The most disturbing situation is also seen with the opposition against the aspiration of the national races to craft a federal union system. This has been marred by the demand for the creation of independent “Wa” state in the border areas.
In the areas controlled by “UWSA”, there are only 600,000 “Wa” ethnic national race, and along with it the maintenance of 30,000 to 50,000 regular soldiers and reserved army.
The majority of the leaders were born in mainland China. The verbal communication used in “Wa” region is Chinese which is also the official language used in the areas.
They use the Chinese currency RMB Yuan and have established separate relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Moreover, they run a television channel there transmitting in Chinese language.
The Chinese businessmen are doing business in “Wa” region, operate tin mines without informing the Myanmar central government.
The “Wa” region could be termed as the “State within the State”.
The “Wa” region could not be designated as a “state” against the backdrop of its population, history and language.
If we compare these current incidents of “Wa” region of Myanmar and China against that situation of “Ossetia” in Georgian-Russian relations, the demand of “Wa” region as an “Independent State” would be extremely dangerous several times more than the “Rohingya” case to be totally accepted as the national races of Myanmar. In this regard, we must be very careful.
Regretfully, a member of the government on the negotiation trip to the controversial copper mine mentioned that China is the 'benefactor' of Myanmar.
Even more, I came across in some news that he said Myanmar is to be fearful of China (it is not the exact wording what he had mentioned).
The incumbent Myanmar government has inherited all the good and bad legacies of the previous military regime, a de facto government.
If the present government does not deserve to be called a democratic government, then at least we could term it as a government shaping for democracy.
We may raise a question whether the present government is copying the foreign policy of the military junta?
At the time when the previous government of Myanmar was practising the harsh autocratic rule, it owed all the gratitude towards China as China supported the military with the use of vetoes in the international affairs.
That was the previous military government.
Whether the present government is still using the same foreign policy?
I am of the view that China is not the 'benefactor' and 'sponsor' of Myanmar and its people.
China is not even a good friendly country. It is only a neighboring country.
At a time when the countries of the world including ASEAN nations are supporting to the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the democratization and reforms and its national reconciliations - the Chinese government is concentrating its own interest and ignored the desire of the Myanmar people, giving various pressures to the Myanmar government.
China never recognizes the democratic reforms of Myanmar and acknowledges the people of Myanmar.
Now, Myanmar is in a tight spot - with a threat to fall into isolation in Asia and with strained relationships with ASEAN nations, Japan and Korea.
At this critical time, the Chinese government is forging close relationship with those who wanted to backslide and make a sharp turn on democratic process.
If the Chinese government wanted to avoid another opposing neighbor - similarly to Vietnam - it should change its foreign policy.
If China creates more problems by solely concentrating on protecting solely its previous interests and benefits, then it will be in the wrong.
The Chinese government has arrives at a point to explicitly show its support such as peaceful development in Kachin State; of Myanmar government's rule over “Wa” region; in reviewing the proper course of investment in Myanmar; and in assisting the stable and peaceful democratic development in Myanmar.
We never feel sorry and regret when the Chinese Ambassador expressed that Chinese investment might be withdrawn. We are desirous to have the transparent and decent investment in our country.
The laying of natural gas pipelines from Kyaukphyu to Kunming, the railway connections, the construction of highways and their completion are all interrelated with the affairs of Kachin State, the affairs of “Wa” region and the democratization.
When China attunes to and act as a good neighboring country, then Myanmar will surely become a friendly nation too.
Regarding the link and understanding among the regional countries including the ASEAN nations, the formation of good relationship between Myanmar and China entirely depends on the latter.
It is time for China to review its foreign policy towards Myanmar. On the other hand, our people must be observant and watchful on the instability in the country, the violence, and extremism in attitudes.
To be a next door neighbor of a superpower, we must always be attentive and alert. The government must never forget that it is now building and implementing a democratic nation, while the president should bravely keep course.
One must remember the promises that one has given to the nation.
The difficulties encountered during the transition period should be addressed by finding solution through conciliations and compromises and exercise of wisdom by both sides.
The working modality must be as clear cut as necessary. Compromises are required. There must be progress.
My father imparted me with the knowledge how to differentiate between the justice and the injustice, and how to separate the Dharma (right teaching of the Buddha) and the Ah-Dharma (antagonistic and wrongful perception), and “How to live”. Staying alive with observant is the best approach “How to die”.
Being a nation sandwiched between two big countries, being a place of strategic point in Asia, being a State lived for many years under the dictatorial rule, and if we intend to move the nation ahead, we must have “justice”, we must have “guts”, and we must be “vigilant”.