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Rakhine-Rohingya Friendship Hospital: A Short Story
by Rohingya Human Rights
2009-04-09 08:39:43
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Part: 1
 
August 15, 2007: The Burmese military regime removed subsidies on fuel causing a rapid and unannounced increase in prices. The government, which has a monopoly on fuel sales and is sold only by a state-owned fuel company – Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, raised prices from about $1.40 to $2.80 a gallon, and boosted the price of natural gas by about 500%. This increase in fuel prices led to an increase in food prices and brought a disastrous situation for the common people in maintaining their livelihoods.
 
Aung Kyaw is the headmaster of the Pitu Rwa School. He feels extremely tormented to see the plight of the common people. He was one of the prominent student leaders of the Rangoon University who led the demonstration against Gen Ne Win's military regime for the honorable funeral of the former UN Secretary General U Thant.
 
U Thant who was born on January 22, 1909  and died on November 25, 1974, was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was and still is regarded by the people of Burma as a most serene and brightest son of Burma. After his death, the Rangoon University students wanted to put his body to final rest in an honorable site which would stand for the people of Burma as the milestone of glory and pride. But Gen. Ne Win wanted to bury the body in a common cemetery of "Kyandaw" where the body of notorious Khine May Than (Ne Win's first legal wife) was buried.
 
Thus, there arose a tense situation centering the burial of the body of U Thant. At one stage, once the students seizing the body buried it in the ground of the Students Union Building of Rangoon University on 10th December 1974. But next morning at about 5 am, the army entered the campus using tanks. The Chancellor Gate was first bulldozed off. The army began arresting everybody on the way and herded them off in the military trucks. When the soldiers started digging for the body, students began to march onward to stop them. Then began indiscriminate shooting. When the body was raised, there was a tug-of-war over the body.
 
All those students who rushed onwards to snatch the body of U Thant, were shot dead. A popular high school girl student, Khin Khin Myint (?), was one of those who clung on to the coffin of U Thant. First the soldiers began to kick her down to depart her from the coffin, later seeing that she was not leaving the coffin off, the soldiers shot her down. Thus, the UN flag with which the body of U Thant was wrapped, was drenched with the blood of the students. (Ref: Dr Shwe Lu Maung's book 'Burma: Nationalism and Ideology').
 
Part: 2
 
Aung Kyaw has two daughters. The name of his elder daughter is Khin Khin Myint which he named after the name of that popular high student girl  Khin Khin Myint who sacrificed her life for the honor of the former UN Secretary General U Thant. The name of his younger daughter is Khin Khin Nu.
 
However, after the eccentric hike in the fuel price on August 15,2007, the price of rice had jumped 10 percent, meat 15 percent, and a standard plate of noodles at a food stall had tripled. By the end of September, the price of a kilogram of rice had increased from around 300 kyat to 500 kyat, while a dozen eggs had doubled in price from 600 kyat to 1,200 kyat. People could no longer afford to buy rice and started to eat rice soup. And those who could not even afford to eat rice soup, they just started to eat corn.
 
Aung Kyaw recalls the story of A Tale of Two Cities where, portraying the grim scenario of the oppression of the ruling class of the aristocrats in France before the French Revolution, the writer Charles Dickens wrote:
 
'In France, the ruling class of aristocrats has oppressed the people for so long that many are starving. The peasants are treated cruelly by the corrupt ruling class, which lives in lavish opulence.... .The peasants are so hungry and thirsty that they have resorted to scooping wine out of the dirt; the scene illustrates how dire is their situation.'
 
Part: 3
 
Aung Kyaw can clearly understand what is going to happen and what grim showbiz the army would orchestrate to brutally suppress the people's demonstration. 
 
Everyday, soon after Aung Kyaw returns home from the school, he picks up his radio and listens to the news of BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. He tries to know what exactly happens in the country. He hardly rolls his eyes on the newspapers of the country because he knows it simply serves as the mouthpiece of the military junta.
 
By December 2007, Aung Kyaw writes in his diary:
 
In response to the increase in fuel prices by the government on August 15,2007, the people of Burma took to the streets in Rangoon and all other major cities of the country under the leadership of the revered monks which popularly became known as the Saffron Revolution.
 
Peoples' demonstrations began on August 19, 2007. The government moved to silence the protest through all brutal means. The security forces began arresting and beating demonstrators. 13 prominent Burmese dissidents including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeya, Ko Jimmy, Ko Pyone Cho, Arnt Bwe Kyaw and Ko Mya Aye were arrested on August 21,2007.
 
Thousands of troops converged on foot and trucks in different areas of Rangoon , Mandalay , Sittwe etc to crack down on the demonstration. .. According to UN estimates, more than 3,000 protesters were arrested and at least 31 people were killed in the crackdown. Monasteries became the target of the daily raid of the army. They imprisoned many highly respected senior monks as the instigator of the protest. Many of the imprisoned monks were high ranking abbots of monasteries who spent even 30 to 40 years in teaching the Buddha Śãsana - the teachings of the Buddha. In the prisons, their robes were taken off and were forced to wear prison uniforms. In fact, for a monk it is the most painful event of life to take off his robes that he has worn to dedicate his life on the path of Buddha.
 
It is true that the junta could take off their robes, but they could not strip of their spiritual monkhood. Despite being forced to wear prison uniforms and being officially stripped of their membership of the Sangha, they continued to practice their faith and meditation. There were many monks who have been sent to the prison labor camps to be chained and shackled from where the chances of return are very low because of malaria like that of the Devil's Island.. Mentionably, it is the concrete floors where the prisoners have to lie without any beds where the gusty winds pass through. The food that they are given to eat are so bad that a pig would shake his head and refuse to eat when he sees that coming – even though pigs are known to have the habit of eating anything.
 
The brutal crackdown of the Burmese army on the peaceful demonstrators reminds Aung Kyaw what Chrales Dickens wrote in his A Tale of Two Cities:
 
'Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky.'
 
Part: 4
 
Kyaw Hla is an active youth member of the National League for Democracy (NLD). He has done his graduation in medicines from the Medical University of Rangoon in 2006. He was one of those who have led the anti-regime demonstrations in Rangoon on August 19, 2007 soon after the hike in the fuel price. The security forces have been hunting for him. Kyaw Hla's father Maung Hla is a close friend of Aung Kyaw. Kyaw Hla escapes to Pitu Rwa by September 2007 to evade arrest and starts living in the house of Aung Kyaw.
 
Aung Kyaw's elder daughter Khin Khin Myint is also a staunch supporter of Burma's pro-democracy movement. The whole family of  Aung Kyaw cordially welcomes Kyaw Hla. As time runs by, a close relationship grows up between Dr Kyaw Hla and Khin Khin Myint. By December 2007, they decide to marry and build up a happy castle and for their wedding ceremony, they fix the following January 4th, which is Burma's independence day.
 
Laila is a Rohingya girl of neighboring Ombadi Rwa. Her father Abdul Hamid is a teacher of the Pitu Rwa School and Khin Khin Myint is a student of Abdul Hamid. Every week Khin Khin Myint and her younger sister Khin Khin Nu visit the house of Abdul Hamid. With the passage of time, a close friendship grows up between Khin Khin Myint and Laila. They become so close that they share almost each and every matter of their joys and sorrows.
 
One day, Khin Khin Myint tells Laila that her fiance Dr Kyaw Hla has decided to permanently settle in Pitu Rwa. She also tells her that he wants to set up a mini hospital somewhere in the middle of Ombadi Rwa and Pitu Rwa where he will arrange free treatment for the extremely poor people, but he has no financial strength to set up the hospital. Laila carefully listens to Khin Khin Myint but does not make any comment.
 
Laila decides to sell out the ornaments of her late mother to set up the hospital and present it to her bosom friend Khin Khin Myint. And soon Laila goes to Kyawtaw bazar and sells out the ornaments.
 
Part: 5
 
The day for the wedding ceremony approaches near. Dr Kyaw Hla asks Khin Khin Myint if there is something which she expects from him as a special gift. Khin Khin Myint asks Dr Kyaw Hla to buy a cage with two white doves and a wall clock to present her on the day of the wedding ceremony. Dr Kyaw Hla amazingly asks her why she wants such strange types of gifts. Khin Khin Myint says she would reply it on the day of wedding.
 
On the day of wedding ceremony, Laila attends with a big wallet of money to gift it to her friend Khin Khin Myint for the dream hospital for her husband Dr Kyaw Hla. Both Khin Khin Myint and Dr Kyaw Hla become astonished to see the craziness of Laila. After sometime, Dr Kyaw Hla brings his special gifts of the cage of the white dove and a wall clock and hands it over to Khin Khin Myint.
 
Receiving the gifts with thanks from her husband, Khin Khin Myint explains to her father Aung Kyaw, Dr Kyaw Hla and Laila:
 
'I will put these white doves in the cage and I don't know how long they will have to stay in the cage. I will free them only the day the Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Suu will become free. I will also switch off this clock to remain dead. I will switch it on only when Burma will get freedom from the military rule.'
 
After few days, Dr Kyaw Hla starts works for the setup of the mini hospital and within one month it gets a shape. Dr Kyaw Hla names it as 'Rakhine-Rohingya Friendship Hospital'.
 
Part: 6
 
Feb 12, 2008. It is the date of birth of Burma's Independence Hero Gen Aung San. Aung Kyaw issues a notice for all the teachers and students of the school to attend a discussion meeting on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Gen Aung San.
 
The meeting starts by 10 am. Teachers and students deliver their speech on different aspects of the glorious struggle of Gen Aung San for the independence of Burma. Finally, Aung Kyaw picks up his diary and reads out to the audience:
 
Mind Without Fear
By Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore
 
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
 
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
 
Where words come out from the depth of truth;  
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
 
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
 
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action---  
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
 
At night army raids the house of Aung Kyaw. They find out the diary. They take him to the army camp. After some one month, police produce him before the court and the judge hands him down 65 years imprisonment. #
 
P.S: All the characters in the story are fictitious.
 
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Address: 2975 Vang i Valdres, Norway. Email: arahman567@yahoo. com www.rohingyareview. com

  
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