The Best Letter From Ashin Gambhira, Safron revolution leader about the Rohingya conflict

Original letter in Myanmar here

Dear respected Ms Yu Ko,

I am quite sad after reading the news (about the present Rakhine-Rohingya riots). I should be surprised and angry but I do not suffer much because since the news started earlier, I have already expected that these could happen and actually all these happen one after another as I have expected.

For those political pundits, the racial riots like the present Rakhine-Rohingya conflicts are not strange or unexpected wonderful events. Like all other dictators around the world, a group of Myanmar Military dictators are doing the same things repeatedly to hold on their power. Since 1962 Coup, “to hold on the power of military dictatorship” they have done to disunite the people by numerous “divide and rule” methods.

Myanmar people are divided politically, racially, religiously, economically, educationally and in all fields by using the various media, news, books, various entertainment platforms etc. Military rulers put wedges between the various strata and groups of Myanmar people to divide into numerous factions and sub-groups. The worse is that as the military dictators have successfully installed a deep seated mistrust and fear inside the hearts and minds of the people and they never trust each other anymore.

Even during the recruitment exercises for the rebels in the Ethnic Minority areas, instead of advocating to fight the Military Dictatorship, they wrongly used the propaganda to fight the “Maha Bama dominance system.” So they became the victims of suspicion, disunity and mistrust. These could weaken the people’s spirits of “Union-Nationalism” and “Panlong Unity” will. These brought in suspicions, frictions and tension between the Bamas and other ethnic groups of Myanmar. This is the result of the systematic propaganda used for the survival of a group of people in the military dictatorship regime in Myanmar.

There is no true democracy and human rights violations are practiced for more than 50 years in our country. (Exactly speaking it is 5 months more than 50 years.) For a 50 year old man, he has never even able to taste what democracy, freedom, human rights, equal rights, justice and fairness in his whole lifespan. Our citizens are hungry for democracy and human rights for many decades and we all are madly wishing and yearning for these universal values.

Ms Yuko’s Japanese and democratic people from other side of the world are all same human beings like our people. But are we lost and are denied of democracy? We are now living in the 21st century and in the age of globalization but our democracy is destroyed our basic principles of human rights are still violated in our country.

During the Saffron Revolution in 2007, the guidance of the Buddha’s religion: peace and loving-kindness were violently destroyed. People around the world know that we did not use any violence but just give the peaceful pronouncement and prayers of Buddha’s Dahhma and marched for peace only. We have been shot, some were killed and many were beaten violently and thrown into long term jail by the military government.

Because of that, Thomas Ojea Quintana of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights had spoken out clearly that it was the act against humanity.

Illegal Myanmar Military government had tried me with unjust laws and regulations and sentenced me for 68 years’ jail term. I not only lost the freedom but my health and education for about four years in the prison.

Present Government is flaunting the world that it is a legitimate government elected by the people of Myanmar and now is also pretending to look as if they are decently honest and innocent. But they are the same old Military Generals disguised as civilians by just leaving their uniforms in their closets and wearing the mufti (dress). But they have not changed anything even during this so called “Transformation period to Democracy” but they are used to their old habits of “Divide and Rule politics” which they have shown on the President’s interview with VOA Myanmar Section head. Once there appeared localized sporadic protests by the disgruntled people demanding their needs and requests for Human Rights and other Rights around Myanmar, the Military Generals conveniently created this Rakhine-Rohingya Racial and Religious conflict to divert the people’s attention.

This trick is a very simple and obvious one for as the Government had incited the monks to invoke hatred on its Muslim citizens on numerous occasions to create Religious Riots before. Now as there are “Metta Campaign for Peace” with the slogan for “peace and democracy” amongst different religions, it is difficult for the Military Dictators to start an Anti-Muslim Riots in the mainland Myanmar proper. So they turn to create an easy job of Rakhine-Rohingya Riots in Arakan State. (I am sad to see that) Military disguised “civilian” government is even supported by some people known as democracy activists.

Even if the initial problem of crime were true, they need to take action according to the criminal law. No need to play up the racial issue. Whether they are Rohingyas or Rakhines or Bamas or Shans, all must be treated equally under the law. Why highlight the Race in order to create a Racial Conflict? Why repeatedly reported and emphasize that only the Rohingyas are wrong. In Bangladesh, if any other races do crimes against Buddhist Marama Gyis or Marghs, Bangladesh government always used to take action on the criminals irrespective of race and religions.

I am very sad to know that some Buddhist monks joined these stupid demonstrations and campaigns discriminating against Rohingya.

We enlightened the whole world with the light of the Dharma in 2007. Do I need to explain the details of the words of Buddha: Ahintha, Metta, Dharma,Peace and Thitsa for all of you? I wrote a letter to the family about the Thima-Thatbeida and Banna Thima while I was in the jail. I just remember that the Thima-Thatbeida written by a Japanese monk was translated by a Myanmar lady journalist and published in the “Ah Twe Ah Myin” (Opinion) magazine in May 2010.  I want to discuss with you if I have a chance to send its copy.

Ms. Yu Ko, as you know, my health is not so good and I need to rest a lot. Once released from the prison, I wish to write about my experience of the revolution, my prison experiences, my dark days there, about my lost of hope there and later about the current political conditions in our country. But I could not write all those desires and experiences into practice because of my ill health. May be I could write all these when my health is better. Even now I am trying to write this because my heart could not continue to bear (the injustices of the Rohingya Riots) although I am suffering from severe head ache. Please reply after reading my letter.


With Metta

Signed (26.8.2012)

Gambira @ Hlaing Bwa

Meikhtila Industralized Zone



Former monk Gambira pens open letter on Arakan State

Friday, 31 August 2012 12:49 Mizzima News
The prominent Burmese Buddhist monk who helped lead the “Saffron Revolution,” Ashin Gambira – now known as Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin since he took off his robes –  has released a letter accusing the military of using the Arakan community unrest for its own purposes.

Photo: GambiraPhoto: Gambira

Ko Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin is in poor health, since his release from prison in January 2012. Several international organizations have offered to pay his expenses if he will leave Burma for proper medical treatment, but he has refused, saying he fears he would not be allowed to return.

In an open letter reprinted below, he writes about the current conflict in Arakan State, the tensions between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines, and his belief that the country’s military “is exacerbating the conflict in an attempt to retain its relevancy.”

The letter was first published on The Best Friend website ( on Aug. 29. The translation from Burmese to English was done by Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin (no relation to Gambira) in Tokyo.

The Letter:

“I feel very sorry after reading the latest news. I don’t feel so much surprised as angry, because I knew something like this would happen soon. One step leads to another. It is actually not so surprising for our country Myanmar, because neither people nor the politicians have good understanding.

The military relies on conflict to stay in power

“The violence between Rakhines and Rohingyas in Arakan State is an example of how dictatorships all over the world use and rely on conflicts to stay in power. If all people were united, a military dictatorship could not survive. Division and enmity in the minds of the people only keeps the military strong. Because of this, the military systematically uses division-and-rule policies on the grounds of nationality, religion, economic and education status, etc., to divide people, to keep the military ‘necessary’, relevant, and in power.

“So the Burmese people are kept separated in groups, each group for themselves, without unity or cooperation.

Everybody lives in fear and distrust of the other. Everyone sees the other with a suspicious mind. With this pressure, the people are defeated.

Nationalism is used to the keep the military system alive

“The new freedom fighter groups were organized under a wrong system of a Burma nationalist policy. These national revolution organization systems are a mistake. They produce suspicions and tensions between Burmese and their fellow landsman. Furthermore, it is slowly destroying the meaning of ‘union’ until the ‘union mind’ will disappear. This is the situation that the Burmese military uses to keep the military system necessary and alive.

The thirst for human rights

“We haven’t had human rights or true democracy in our country for over fifty years. For the last fifty years and five months, an old man hasn’t been able to get a taste of democracy, human rights, freedom, justice, or equality. Some people have not known any of these things their entire lives. This means we were so thirsty for human rights that we sometimes demanded them like fools.

“We are living in the 21st century now, in a time of globalization, but in our country the principles of human rights and democracy are terribly broken. So our understandings of dhamma, detta, peace, and human rights are very rough, and we are beaten, arrested, killed, and destroyed.

“Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, has said clearly that during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, crimes against humanity were committed.

“The illegal government acted against me with unjust laws and rules. I was sentenced by a judge to 68 years in prison. I lost my time, health, education, and freedom for the sake of my motherland. I spent nearly four years in prison.

Everyone around the world knew that the people and monks were marching nonviolently with love, dhamma, and peace, and we didn’t have as much as a nail with us. But we were broken down very violently, beaten, shot, and killed.

“The same people who were ruling Burma then are now presenting themselves to the world as a legal government.

They show themselves to be honest, polite, and clear. But nothing has changed in Myanmar, even in this changing period. The neo-military dictatorship has exploited and fostered a new national crisis, a religious conflict, the Rakhine-Rohingya conflict, for its own purposes.

“This is a very simple and effective strategy. It has happened several times in the past. There have been conflicts between Buddhist monks and Muslims before. They have been fighting each other, and the military dictatorship benefited from it. These clashes were encouraged by the military to keep the people separated.

“We had started a metta campaign in our country with slogans for peace and democracy. The campaign includes members of all religions. But now, the Rakhine and Rohingya have turned against each other violently in front of the world. Even some members of the democracy movement have followed the threat of politics by the military regime and have changed sides.

The rule of law

“I want to say one additional thing. We need to count from the beginning. We only needed to judge with the rule of law those three Rohingyas who raped a girl. Rohingyas or Rakhines, Burmans or Shan, everybody must obey the rule of law. Why encourage racism, why create a crisis? Why blame only Rohingyas and put all of the purnishment on all of them?

“In Bangladesh, in a minority village on the border with Myanmar, several people were robbed by Bengali groups. The Bangladeshi government took effective action against the robbers with the rule of law, and a crisis was averted.

“I feel sad to know that some Buddhist monks have joined demonstrations and campaigns against Rohingyas. We already previously kindled a fire of dhamma for everyone around the world to see in 2007. Do I need to explain in detail the meaning of the Buddha’s words, of metta, dhamma, peace, ahitha, thitthar, ageha, for everyone?

“As you know, my health is not so good, so I have been taking a rest lately. Actually, the past revolution experience was a very dark and hopeless situation inside the prison for me.

“I faced it, and survived this condition after I was released into the present political situation. I really want to write more about it. But I have to take care of my health first. In the future when I am better, I hope I can do it.

“Even writing this letter hurts my eyes and causes severe headaches. The deep pain inside my body is bad, but I needed to write and send this to you.”

Signed Ko Nyi Nyi Lwin

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