Upward & Onward: A Burmese teacher’s lesson

7 mins read

I am a new correspondent writer at the Daily Bulldog and my name is Mylana Shaw. I am currently enrolled at Bingham’s Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School. I have taken part in the University of Maine at Farmington’s Upward Bound program for the past two years and am in the middle of my third summer. As a hopeful future journalist I was allowed the wonderful opportunity to try my hand at writing here at the Daily Bulldog.

I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to share with the community the diversity that is prevalent in the Upward Bound program. This summer along with many other new staff, we’ve welcomed a very enthusiastic psychology major as our Burmese teacher. She arrived in September of 2008 from the Southeastern country of Burma and has taken it upon herself to give us a full view of the terrible situation the people she left are facing. The military junta in Burma has taken full control of the country’s human rights, resources and finances. Now they are refusing aid to the country in fear of journalists who might spread the truth about the military regime’s power.

Writer Mylana Shaw and her beagle friend

This young teacher, who wished to remain anonymous for the safety of her family, lived in Burma until the age of eight when her father’s car was spotted by the soldiers carrying their fancy china to the birthday celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San being feared for her power as a human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient by the military government in Burma, her father was immediately fired from his job of 25 five years and his family uprooted. They later returned when she was 13.

The social injustices occurring in Myanmar, the new name given to the country by its ruling military junta, are part of the world’s longest currently running conflict. The military has been performing these ethnic cleansings for many years and in 1988 a large group of students held a peaceful protest in the streets of Burma. As a result many were killed or imprisoned.

This young woman witnessed the 10-year anniversary of this protest in 1998. With her long black hair draped over her shoulders, she recited her memories of the experience for me with a calm look about her.

“I was probably thirteen and I was sitting in a computer course in school. My Dad told me I had to go back home right then because of the soldiers that would be coming for the protestors, but I wanted to stay and watch. So he let me stay but told me to be prepared to run really, really fast if something happened,” the young woman recalled of the quiet wait which occurred at a busy intersection. She continued with “the military’s soldiers finally showed up and everyone got really scared and started running. The soldiers used these two-inch by two-inch wooden sticks to beat the protestors back.” There were women, too, which she described as very unusual.

“The soldiers would also use fire hoses to knock the protesters down. Then they would immediately pick them up off of the ground and arrest them. Some of the really, really brave would run to the neighboring houses and knock on the doors. You know to find a place to hide so they wouldn’t be beaten. Sometimes they could but most people wouldn’t even open their doors. They were afraid that if they took anybody in they would be in trouble too.”

When asked if these sorts of protests were common she responded that, “well, yes, they are, but not quite that bad. Now, every two or three years there are sit-ins or hunger strikes.” The fight to regain the rights lost when the military junta gained power has and will be ongoing until someone takes action.

“After the protest in ’88 my family took in four students and fed them for two days. Before they left they gave my mother and aunts a bunch of stickers and slogans. They were so scared that soldiers would find them that they burned them and buried the ashes.” She added the common knowledge in Burma being that no one spoke out against the government publicly. Even  saying something inside one’s own home against the government would make the entire family fearful.

Her main goal is to spread the word about the situation.

“The military government has been in power for so long in Burma that without external help there is no way for the people to get out of the situation.” Myanmar’s alliances with China and Thailand have sparked a hesitance for any outside forces to interfere with the ethnic cleansings and other military attacks.

She recommended that those who feel the need to learn more about this issue look at the pictures on: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22515138-661,00.htmlhttp://www.japanprobe.com/?p=2800,http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1672377,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-bottomhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0heX0k8pnB0http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUCQU0tgoYA&feature=relatedhttp://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1472,http://english.dvb.no/photo3.php?cat=6, and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7009316.stm. Though the images can get rather gory, they tell the truth about the dire situation in her country. Those who wish to take action can also go to http://uscampaignforburma.org

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1 Comment

  1. Mylana–congratulations on a wonderful story! Please stop by the library and say “Hi!” I would love to hear about your school year and your new position with The Daily Bulldog.

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