The following letter to Myanmar military leader Than Shwe was sent Tuesday by U Thangara Linkara, Abbot of the Dhamma Yeiktha Monastery, in Yangon. Posted Wednesday on the website of the Asian Human Rights Foundation in Hong Kong, the letter sheds light on the role of religion in the explosive confrontation with the government led by Myanmar’s Buddhist clergy .
Senior General Than Shwe
, Head of State, Naypyidaw:
I respectfully write this letter to you with Metta [loving kindness]. Please read it with foresight and consider wisely.
1. We monks [see that] Burma’s difficulties have gone on for over 60 years. As delicate political issues have not been solved in a delicate way, now after 60 years they have been needlessly prolonged, like an unfinished painting.
2. Unhappily, throughout these 60 years, we [brethren] have argued, quarrelled, blamed and slandered one another. The wastage of human resources is a sad loss. Year by year we sink further and further into the doing of bad rather than good.
3. The root cause is power. Those individuals who temporarily held the people’s power on behalf of the people have prolonged [their hold on power] for their own purposes for over 60 years. The original owners of power, the people, have been made innocent victims: more and more repressed and poor and impoverished. In fact, the people’s power should be in the people’s hands, so that people can live comfortably and free from difficulty.
4. Dr. Maung Maung said, “Power can corrupt and absolute power can corrupt absolutely.” It is very true. Power corrupted General Ne Win and some of his men. Power corrupted Senior General Saw Maung, Lieutentant General Tun Kyi, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt and other individuals. Now power corrupts the majority of generals under your command.
5. I once asked a camp/station commander close to me, “How much are you worth?” He replied, “About 50 million.” I said, “What’s that? One lieutenant general must have millions upon millions.” He said, “How so. A colonel can have that much. A general has enough for ten lives.” Senior General, think about how corrupted these generals are. While the generals are gathering up the nation’s natural resources, the majority of the people are destitute and starving.
6. Knowing that power corrupts, the Buddha-to-be, Prince Taymi, for 16 years pretended to be deaf and mute for fear of holding great power. All saintly people truly fear power.
7. Senior General if you [your people] really wish to resolve the current difficulties, decide quickly to restore the people’s power to its original owner, the people. Quickly inform the people of this. This is the right way.
8. To restore power to the original owner, meet and discuss how to find the best solution together with: 1. the national leadership; 2. respected, prominent abbots; 3. intellectuals and personages from all quarters with the interests of the country really at heart; 4. political scientists.
9. Form an organisation to ensure firm guarantees for the future of the [current] national leaders (for instance, an organisation led by Senior Abbots).
10. It is only through the returning of the people’s power to the hands of the people that the over 60 years of unsolvable heavy problems will in fact be solved.
With great Metta and goodwill,
U THANGARA LINKHARA, Abbot
Dhamma Yeiktha Monastery, Yangon