Dear Sayar U Myint,
I received your open letter dated April 4 on the next day.
I do not know whether the letter is your opinion or the president asked you to write it. As far as I know the president requested a meeting with members of presidential economic and social advising councils on April 4. You wrote the letter on that same day. If the meeting was held, there are questions to raise.
Since your letter is intended personally to me, my reply will be on personal view. First and foremost, I am honored that a 77-year-old professional wrote me, 29-year-old. The age difference between us can make you not as old as my father but my grandfather.
Your letter was about an article published on March 31 issue of the Weekly Eleven titled “Would Myanmar plunge deeper into recession?” The English version department of Eleven Media Group translated the article into English. Therefore, your reply should be in Myanmar language. I think it is not necessary to write such a long letter only to lecture us on English language usages.
Before clarifying any comments you had pointed out, I want to explain more about the lifestyles of the young people. I am saying this because your letter made it obvious that you do not know well about the lifestyles of the younger people.
We are not fluent in English like you nor do we have in-depth knowledge about economic. You can stress on that fact. You can keep saying that. However, I want to explain why the tens of millions of us are not experts like you.
We were unfortunate to miss the good education system that you enjoyed. We grew up in the broken education system and under the oppressions of sixty years of dictatorship.
You learned at the University of Yangon. You got the chance to learn about English, Politics and Economy very well. You achieved Master’s degree from Cornell University in the United States. You also got Ph.D. from Berkeley University in California.
I am not like you. I was educated under an education system where we had to memorize everything, where a degree was given for a total of thirty days attendance (only ten days tuitions for a semester and a total of three semesters to get a degree) and where we learned about economy from a correspondent course.
Moreover, we are not from popular elite families like you. We had to struggle to educate ourselves.
My father was a former military personnel (not an officer) and my mother was dependent. One of the typical families struggling under the oppressive authoritarian regime.
My parents afforded only for my basic education. I had to find part-time jobs when I reached 10 and 11 grades only to support myself to continue my education. By then, our highest hope was to attend a correspondent course to continue our education. Only then, we can work and learn at the same time.
A monthly salary was needed to support my family. Until now, I am the one supporting my family.
It is not only me who have been through such situation. Tens of millions of Myanmar young people went through similar conditions. There were no support from the government’s education system. Many could not afford private tuitions and depended on charity schools. It was different in your time. I believe you know what cause it. I feel that your letter was not just addressed to me but to the tens of millions of younger people in the country. It was a suppression on the youths and a reflection of your ego implying not to criticize if we are not well-educated like you.
You did not explain the reason why were not well-educated. We are not well-educated because the education system was thoroughly destroyed. Even though we were not educated in universities in western countries, we are trying to educate the younger generation. We ourselves are also trying to become well-educated.
The result of U Ne Win, U Than Shwe and U Khin Nyunt’s systematic destruction of the country’s education system is the loss of the futures millions of people. I am not saying that because of hatred. I am merely point that a change is needed.
Fist, the education system needs to be improved. The young people are trying to improve it. Just recently, the people gathered in Letpadan. Yet, your letter reflects the sentiments of the critics offending the students who were imprisoned for marching to Letpadan. Your letter is proving that your opinions are indifferent from the pro-dictatorial elements that offend the students without sympathy.
Even though we grew up in the oppressive education system, we did not stop. We tried. I started working a monthly-paid job at the age of 17—as a seller in a bookshop. I chose journalism as my career when I reached 19. I started as a junior reporter at Eleven Media Group. Now I am 29 and I have working experience of ten years.
At this point, I want to mention about a young editor from our English version department, Zayyar Nanda. He is now 21. (He is one of the editors who checked the translation of my article. To my knowledge, the translation did not differ from the original as you have pointed out. I will talk about this more at a later time.)
The editor, Zayyar Nanda, fled to the border after the Saffron Revolution. He did not pass the matriculation exam. He faced difficulties to attend state schools when he got back to Myanmar. However, his self-studies highly improved his English language skills. His average IELTS score was 8. When he was 18, one of his opinion articles, written in English, was published on The Nation newspaper in Thailand for the first time.
Even though he was award a scholarship for his efforts, he could continue learning as the program later stopped. What I want to say is although the authoritarian regime and bad system had oppressed the people there are many who are trying to make their way to success. Not all are dumb as you seemed to imply.
Although the education system was destroyed, there are many things we could do. We learned from books. Since the schools are not helpful, we depended heavily on self-study. As of now, there are millions of those young people in our country.
I improved myself through self-studies to become an executive editor from a junior reporter. I can work together with foreign journalists. I can still communicate even though my English language skills are not very good, just to let you know. 95 percent of Myanmar journalists including me did not learn journalism systematically. We learned through self-study. As for me, I keep learning day and night. The results of the hard work can be seen in my articles.
We are not descendants from elite class. We did not applied for scholarship by working closely with opportunists while we could. We refused the opportunities they had offered.
In my writings, I always stand for the oppressed people. The late renowned journalist LuDu Sein Win, whom I was close to, once said a true journalist always look to the people. I tried to be a true journalist by following his principles and sentiments.
None of my articles are written for the elites, opportunists or dictators. I did not accept any opportunities from anyone. I guarantee that I have never betrayed the people.
I am still struggling to sustain my life, still learning through self-studies to become a better journalist, and still learning from knowledgeable persons. I am content with my life as it is.
But in your letter, you blamed the millions of younger people for not being well-informed as you and lectured us about English language usages. I feel sorry to read your letter as it reflects the views of the elites and neglects the oppressed, impoverished people. I am really sorry for the country and the countrymen to see such sentiments from someone like you.
To be straightforward, what I did was what a journalist should do.
A journalist listens to the public from a journalistic perspective; collects facts and data; review history, geography and the situations; and explains the public of the cases through common sense and expertise. Sometimes a journalist present the explanation by implications while there are also times the presentation must be straight forward.
Not only the article you commented but all of the articles I have written were like that. But there is one thing to note: journalists are not experts. It is true journalists should have general knowledge in everything but their knowledge will not be in-depth like an expert. You stated my article jihad on the president, his government, his advisors, parliament and opposition. Are you accusing I am a Muslim? Or are you saying we the Eleven Media Group has religious discrimination and fighting a war? None of the accusations would be true.
In other words, I would like to ask if you have religious discrimination sentiments.
I have known that you are an economic advisor to President Thein Sein and you also have a good relationship with opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In your letter, you defended the president, his government, his advisors and National League for Democracy (NLD). However, I do not think it is of pure good will. You ignored the young people oppressed under dictatorship and the public stressed by the poverty. On the other hand, having a good relationship with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi does not mean you are working for the good of the people and the country. Your letter shows how true our conclusions are. This is only a reply for the suppressions implied in your letter and the first three paragraphs of the letter.
To be continued…