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Published on Thursday, 13 September 2012 16:51 Written by Ko Myo (Myanmarsar)
“Those who committed wrongdoings must make their confessions. The errors must be rectified. The persons that had committed bad things must not assume any post or responsibility without first confessing what he did. That’s the point I want to make”, says Dr Than Htut Aung, Chairman and CEO of Eleven Media Group in an interview with Chief Editor Ko Myo (Myanmarsar) of the Popular Journal on September 9 with regards to the media, the current political setting and landscape in Myanmar. The interview was featured in the Popular Myanmar News Journal and also posted on the websites of the Eleven Media Group.
Q: My first question is in connection with the humiliating comments and writing about those (student leaders) who returned to Myanmar. The writings were posted on Facebook as well as in the print media. Perhaps, some persons might have the rights to speak. But by giving such slanderous comments, the contents are sure to tarnish the 88 chronicles. It may even undermine the entire history. First of all, I would like to ask what would be the best course in dealing with this matter in line with the media ethics. After 24 long years of the people’s protests, no one has openly confessed about the 88 incidents – whether rightly or wrongly. I mean those who committed the errors. Some people are now emerging with the information of when on at the time. In such a dilemma, how the media should deal with this matter in the context of ethics and in our reports?
A: The issue started when Moe Thee Zun returned, and also when Ko Naung Aung came back. Then the ABSDF affairs in the northern areas flared up. Perhaps, the chairmen of the ABSDF did make mistakes. Maybe they had accused the people wrongly. They might have accused innocent persons who were not the persons from the security units. At that juncture, the use of weapons was the deciding factor in the minds of the dictators where there was no rule of law.
That was why the chaotic and messy situation occurred. Many persons including Ko Tun Aung Kyaw were cruelly exterminated. To take responsibility of the killings was one part, and to confess the wrongdoing is another. Those who are guilty deserve the punishment. One should take the punishment bravely. There were many persons involved with the ABSDF and the 88 Revolt continued with available weapons and they fought back in the struggles, but did not succeed. Eventually, they went into exile in foreign countries after the failed revolution. Their lives were shattered. Their situations were devastated.
Now, they have returned home. Some media and persons accused them of going after dollars in foreign countries and running away as cowards. No, they were not. I would like to explain the misconception and the misinterpretation. I want to advise young journalists, young politicians and politicians inside the country to let the returnees take part in the political sphere. They have vast experiences. We need to create a political environment and step forward with the international experiences of the returnees and the knowledge of the persons inside the country.
Only then, we could shape and build democracy with far more maturity. We must allow them to participate creatively. I dislike hearing the humiliating and wicked words against the returnees by saying that they were dollar seekers and opportunists. Perhaps, one or two persons might have tended to the mistakes, but not all of them. That is the point I want to make.
Q: Some media persons welcome the return of these exiled students. However, the 88 Generation Students Group decided not to welcome them through a ballad. Will you publicize that the 88 Generation Students Group are good based on the past role, or will you criticize their present activities? Are the media responsible to support the 88 Uprising now? We were not tasked with this over the 24 years. How should we proceed?
A: You would have to witness the situations just before the military coup – how it happened and who created the trigger points for the military coup. The military regime had ruled for 24 years. The country is still struggling to enjoy democracy. However, most of our editors were born after 1988. Some of them were still in childhood. Their news and articles are mostly based on their current experiences. They do not have history knowledge in details.
For example, some of them have not seen the Mirror newspaper before 1988. They might jeer at the words that millions of people participated in the 1988 Uprising as they cannot visualize the actual event. The population of Mandalay at that time was between 600,000 and 800,000. A mass protest of upper Myanmar was staged at Yar Pyae Football field in Mandalay on 26th August. At that time I answered a reporter that the number of protesters was approximately 400,000. He replied me that the number of population in Mandalay was only between 600,000 and 800,000. I believed that the number of protesters on that occasion would be at least 300,000. I could estimate this because almost all the family members in the city took part in this protest. Only the disabled or very old persons remained in their homes. Such a mass protest is unbelievable to the present generation.
Most of them would have experienced just the 2007 Saffron Revolution. The number of protesters was not more than 50,000-100,000. However, the 88 Uprising was participated by 3 to 4 million people even in Yangon. Millions of protesters took to the street on important days. This situation would be a dream to the present generation. We could not collect all the information at that time. We amazingly saw the photo records of huge waves of protesters in newspapers. The new generation will not believe the miseries and agonies of students who sacrificed their lives in the revolution.
Actually, the exiled students have to struggle in foreign countries. They have to stay away from their homes and some had to abandon their education. When they have got a chance to return home at present, all the exiled students should not be neglected – althpugh Moe Thee Zun or Dr. Naing Aung may have made some mistakes.
Q: I want to know about a case that happened in relation to a photo. In 1988, there was a doctors union. Now, the photo has been posted on the net. You wrote about the conflict that happened within the union. Some also wrote positive views while others commented sarcastically. Why did you write about it only now?
A: Talking about it in detail, I have already decided not to get involved in politics. I had experienced politics already. When I was 25, I was a member of divisional organizer of the NLD. My position was high in comparison with my age then. Frankly speaking, I have already walked out due to different political ideology. I won't enter politics any more. I will explain the reason why I wrote about the case only now.
During the entire uprising, I worked together with Aung Naing, who was mainly involved in activities in northern Myanmar. Soe Lin and Tun Aung Kyaw were our friends. I assume that I should tell about the case. During the uprising, I spend my days in Mandalay. I wrote about it in my book titled “22 Years Means”. On August 10, I was assigned duties by the All Upper Burma General Strike Front in Mandalay. The Upper Burma Students Union assigned duties to Aung Naing and Aung Myint Tun. We three came to Yangon. We were instructed to meet student groups from the Lower Burma Students Union, to assess the leadership and the situation here and to report back. We set out our journey on the 10th and arrived in Yangon on the 11th. On the way, we heard on the radio that multi-party democracy elections would be held. We were very happy with the announcement and thought we had won democracy.
But actually, what we got was an interim government. We had so many problems as we could not do our jobs properly. We met the students from the All Burma Students Union. Then, I called on U Tin Oo and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Then, we did not meet each other. Who we should support? We thought we had to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Buddhist monk U Ye Vata, secretary of All Upper Burma General Strike Front, was then jailed. But he passed away shortly after he was released.
We reported the death to them. We, the three, met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. At that time, Aung Naing was 21 years old. I was 25 and Aung Myint Tun 19. I was already a medical doctor. Aung Myint Tun called on U Nu while Aung Naing and I met U Tin Oo. Then, the three visited Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I did not meet U Aung Gyi. U Nu declared himself prime minister. Some people thought he was craved for power.
The Parliament on the 10th announced that elections would be held. It was indeed a period of high political tension. We – the young people who had no knowledge of history – made mistakes. U Nu was right. He had much experience in politics. Perhaps, others were wrong. Thinking it over, we now recognized his political wisdom. I met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On 12th September, I attended a gathering of All Burma Students Union as I heard that an interim government was to be formed and we had to give our consent. Actually, I had completed my medical school. On the 13th, I also attended a meeting where the formation of interim government would be discussed. When the military staged a coup and the uprising ended, I was in Yangon.Actually, my organization was based in Mandalay.
The returnees have their own experiences abroad. We should combine their experiences with ours for our country to keep moving forward. Democratization of our country will speed up only if we do that.
Q: Do you think this is the right time for you to write about it again like this?
A: I didn't mean to be a history writer. But I want to tell you all that I have a lot of information to share. Especially everybody involved in the ABSDF affairs of northern Myanmar is coming back. I will never forgive them if they try to bury the history when they return.
But as I said before, there were exaggerations and one blamed the another, and repeatedly recounting of history. Is that right?
I'm afraid that we can't go forward if we lose out at this stage. If they ask me how much I know, I want to tell them that I know a lot. Nobody knew about our meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We want to tell that we know the history.
Q: Another question is trust. Does what you talked as the CEO of Eleven Media Group is different from others and do you know the history?
A: I'll tell you. A responsible person from a large media group in Myanmar knows the history. But I want to tell you that I am smart enough to think whether the time is right or wrong to speak out about the history. I will tell what I would say at the right time. I don't want to speak about the affairs that could backtrack the way our country is going – not a right time. That’s what I want to tell.
But we can't accept those returnees who forgot the history and act innocently. They must confess their mistakes. Those who made mistakes must confess that they were wrong. They must correct their wrongdoings. Those who made mistakes can't take positions without confessing. That’s what I want to say.
Q: Some youth have not known exactly what happened until now. Some learned from the “red book” which was published by the Ministry of Information. Some knew from their own personal experiences. Some heard from the people who were present at that time. But the reality has only two facts. Some have mistaken and some have misunderstood from the facts in the “red book”. Some don’t know anything about it. Now Moe Thee Zun returned and people want to interview him. What is your opinion on what happened in the past as a journalist?
A: There are many persons who know more than I do. There are historians and many people who witnessed the event. The best thing is to write the history. Write history accurately. We are not suggesting punishment. Now the youth have wrong information and get confused with the writings by ex-general Khin Nyunt. They are just propaganda. They are not history or real truth. Burma Communist Party (BCP) did not initiate them. Although the BCP took part in the event, they did not provoke. I think there were many people who were honestly involved in the event.
We need to sincerely write true historical events from 1962 to 1988. Our country needs to compile the historical events after 1988 unrest all over again. We are well aware of past events that happened in the country. I was completely out of touch with historical events in the country at a time when I was doing private business. I am able to tell about historical events as much as I can soon after my media role. In the country there are many people who can tell historical events more than I can. To be fair it is of utmost importance. Compiling history should not undermine our right path to democracy or national reconciliation. We are just trying to re-establish national reconciliation. Without undermining the national reconciliation, the media should go ahead. Historians should also follow this road.
Q: Earlier you told me about U Nu who was well versed in politics. Do you have any further ideas and thoughts?
A: We would say that we are right. That is the same as those who are leading the politics. When reviewing ourselves, whosoever, either the President or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or ourselves or Ko Min Ko Naing (88 Generation Students) – we all will have to confess that our country has not moved ahead yet.
Our country does not meet with proper development and is still far behind compared with our neighbours. In this state, we all will have to confess to being weak. Our country had unpleasant history. That is a point. All young and old are duty-bound to improve our country. It is necessary to review our past mistakes. In reality, we all made mistakes more or less in the past. I don't wish to talk about the sacrifice, good or bad things that we made. If we review of ourselves, we all are duty-bound to develop our country.