02/14/2021, 13.24
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Yangon: These people deserve respect and support

by U Zaw Zaw

The military coup is strengthening solidarity among all sections of the population, even between police and military. Aung San Suu Kyi also deserves respect. Europe does not understand Myanmar and its hope. The testimony of a humanitarian worker for 30 years in Southeast Asia.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - "These people deserve respect and support": this is the conclusion of a reflection that an Italian humanitarian worker sent to his friends. Under the local name of U Zaw Zaw, he has been working in Southeast Asia for over 30 years. The reason for the "respect and support" is that the coup d'etat by the military junta is generating ever greater solidarity among all strata of the population, even between the police and the military. U Zaw Zaw also defends the track record of Aung San Suu Kyi (“the Lady”) in the face of the empty presumption of many Europeans, who do not understand the complexity of the country and its difficulties. And that is why they do not understand the hope that the people of Myanmar have for their own future and that of their children.

Dear readers,

The past two weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions for me and my companions. Tonight I am allowing myself to express some of them in these few lines that I share with you because I profoundly believe that what we are experiencing deserves reflection. Allow me to share these thoughts, all of which are deeply personal. I don't think it will happen often.

It is not the first time that I have witnessed a coup. Back in 1992 in Bangkok, in the first year of my work, as well as in 2005, again in Thailand. But I saw that it was a struggle between forces that were already in power. They had never worried me, just as they have never been a cause of great concern for the people; except the last one, when the institution of the king began to crumble.

But this here is something much more. A people that until 2008-2010 lived in fear, under a terrible regime.

Only in recent years, and in particular since 2015, with the great free elections, have these people begun to breathe and understand that they could be the architects of their progress and their future.

But I don't want to make philosophies. I will tell you the things I have seen and heard. And my companions who go out among people more than me, more so.

I can tell you that this situation has thrown the whole country into great turmoil. All people almost suddenly found themselves retrogressing back 15 years. Our Daw Mary, who prepares our food and helps us with the house cleaning, was already talking about it, as she did at the time, in a low voice: you cannot speak openly about these things, because you never know who is listening.

As I write, the concert at eight in the evening has just ended: 20 minutes of banging pots and pans with an exceptional choral participation from all the houses and apartments, placed at the windows banging pans, lids, irons ... to echo the shared unifying sentiment. Throughout the city and in all cities.

And this unifying sentiment has been seen in these days of demonstrations, not far from here. An exceptional crescendo. Last Monday, demonstrations ran across the country, without the color of parties, to say that everyone is united in this request for freedom.

There are very orderly events: from 10 to 4 in the afternoon and then at home. At 8 pm there is a curfew. It is sad return to past times.

I must say that the dignity and contained behaviour is great. There is a great sense of solidarity: people offering water to the participants, there are places where food is distributed; boys who collect garbage after the processions have passed; truckloads of bananas distributed to the participants and to anyone who passes by.

Two days ago I happened to go to the embassy where some fellow citizens had been summoned for some coordination. I went by bike, I would never get there by car; and it was a continuous passage among many young people, many, and among those who supported them, offering them, and me, water or a package of rice to eat, or some typical dessert ...

I left with a bit of fear and returned full of the enthusiasm of these young people, without fear.

The Chinese in front of the house, a bit cold and always busy with work, even opened up the other day, offering dozens and dozens of young people who passed here to go to the event, prepared packages of rice, but in large quantities ...

Taxis that bring people home for free; policemen who coordinate traffic with great empathy with those participating in the protest ...

Even the staff who work with me, here in Yangon and Taunggyi, participated in the demonstrations: we can't go back, my project manager told me, I know what that means. She, the daughter of a catechist from a city in the delta, knows well what the dictatorship of the past meant.

The Taunggyi project manager told me that “we don't want that for our children ".

The other day the physiotherapist who works with us, also with a two-year-old girl, repeated the same thing to me: we are ready to die, but we cannot go back. We die for our children.

I listened entranced by so much strength, but also with so much shame inside.

I often think of our young people without “anywhere to go”, without meaning…; I think of our little Europe that is ever smaller and older, unable to understand and open horizons for which it is worth living and dying, engaged in very different agendas ...

I think that what happened came at a time of great weakness for this country and for its leader. Weakened by ten months of Covid-19 which really consumed those forces that the country had recovered somewhat in recent years.

But weakness also due to an international conspiracy that in recent months has weakened the very image of the "Lady", even taking away recognition and suchlike. I am not a political scientist and what I write is just my opinion, but it seems to me that the superficiality shown in particular by some European countries in making judgments was great; without calculating that if in Italy we lived the "twenty years", here there were three of "twenty years old" consecutively; in a population with 135 recognized ethnic groups, with languages, cultures…. completely different. Superficiality and perhaps even arrogance, it seems to me are two aspects present in our Europe made up more of "bureaucrats" than of peoples. A Europe that is ashamed of its history.

I have seen young people without fear, eager to live in freedom. The style of their demonstrations are a thousand years away from our "black-blocks": our children whom we cultivate and train, and at the right moments we let them out to ... show that there is anger in people's hearts ...

Here too there is a lot of anger, an anger that instead gives rise to solidarity, closeness, acceptance, makes people suffer with great dignity, and also accepts to put their work in crisis ...

Today a person I know said to me: a friend of mine called me who is a policeman and doesn't know what to do; he can't go on like this; he would like to quit his job, but then what? His family? But how is it possible to stand against people?

This people deserve respect and support.

For this reason, I reiterate and reiterate our desire to continue, despite the many difficulties that are opening up on the horizon.

I ask you all, dear readers, to remember us in your prayers.

U Zaw Zaw

February 12, 2021

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