Interview with Ashin Gambira | Ashin Gambira, who was released from prison only a few weeks ago and is now facing new threats of legal charges, says that despite all the words in newspapers, the real situation in his country has yet to change. “It hasn’t changed at all. Even though they are talking about being on the road to democracy, they are not really acting in accordance with it.”
On Sunday, the “New Light of Myanmar” reported that the Sangha Committee has asked for legal action to be taken against Ashin Gambira.
He pulls the article out of his bag and says, “I just had a big discussion with the Sangha Committee. During this discussion we reached a mutual agreement. When I left the meeting everything was resolved. These accusations are not from the Sangha Committee. This comes from the authorities.”
He is ready to face whatever comes, he says, and he is not thinking about leaving the country for his safety. He doesn’t want to be limited by fear, by thinking about if it is safe or not to go here and there.
“There are many unjust and false accusations against me in this article. For example, I explained to the Sangha Committee that I was a monk long before the Saffron Revolution, I have been monk during my time in prison, and now I am still a monk.”
He has had two re-ordination ceremonies since his release. During the meeting with the Sangha Council, his re-ordinations were approved by the Sangha Maha Nayka, “but the military regime does not accept it”.
He continues: “It might look to the outside world like freedom when people can now wear t-shirts with political slogans and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s picture. People can buy books that were prohibited before, pictures of General Aung San and of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can be seen sold on the street. This was not possible before, yes. But Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is still limited, she can not freely go to all places on her campaign trail. And in some remote regions of the country this new kind of freedom has not arrived yet.”
More than 400 political prisoners remain behind bars, among them forty-three monks. “I want to ask the international community to keep working for their freedom. I will continue to work for the release of all remaining political prisoners, especially the monks who are my students, who joined the peaceful movement in 2007. Why are they still not released, why are they still behind bars?”
Civil wars are still going on, despite the government’s claims to have reached ceasefires with several ethnic groups. “We need an end to all civil wars now. The opposition, which is now outside of Burma, must be able to come back.”
The Buddhist Sangha still remains the main target of the regime in Burma. Monks, especially monks with dissident views, are restricted and oppressed with the help of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. Ashin Gambira regrets that “the Sangha Council doesn’t take responsibility for the well-being of the monks, it is mainly working for the interests of the regime.” Famous monks are being prohibited from preaching Dharma. “And Even if the Sangha Maha Nayaka approves a Dharma talk, there are many limitations by the regime.”
One example is the well known monk Shwe Nya Wah Sayadaw, who was banned from giving Dharma speeches for one year, and was recently evicted from his monastery.
“He had planned to go together with a thousand monks for a ceremonial alms collection in the city. This was prohibited by the regime. Restriction of monks has not changed.”
Ashin Sopaka is another example. Ashin Gambira says: “Now Ashin Sopaka is allowed to visit the city once a week. But he needs to ask for permission from the authorities, and he is always followed by a group of plainclothes police. He is not free. He must have the right to go around freely, alone by himself.”
“I am also watched all the time. The surveillance is very close now to us, but I don’t care how many of them are following us. I will still do what I think is right.”
“Until now, I only read about democracy in the newspaper. Human rights are still violated on a regular basis in my country. We do not have freedom, no freedom of speech or press freedom.”
Interview by Alexandra Rösch, The Best Friend
- Ashin Gambira: Human rights violations continue
- Ashin Virathu “If the Sangha Council will work for the monks, I will wear my robe again.”
- Shwe Nya Wah Sayadaw ordered to leave his monastery
- Ashin Gambira Rebuilding Meggin Monastery – “We want to see real change”
- Ashin Gambira: “Please try to find a good way to work for the release of all political prisoners”
- Candle Vigil for Ashin Gambira in Mae Sot
- Event: Light a Candle for Ashin Gambira
- A letter from prison: Metta by Ashin Gambira
- Ashin Gambira: Fear
- “Political prisoners must have rights” – Ashin Gambira on hunger strike in Kale jail