Why I Published Maung Sit Naing’s “Operation Grave Diggers”?

As mentioned in the previous post that, one of the esteemed reader’s of “Burma Review” by the name – Maung Sit Naing send his opinion entitled, ‘Operation Grave Diggers’ as a strategy to fight against incorrigible military regime in Burma popularly known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). However, Burma Review in spite of having respect to the views expressed by the author of ‘Operation Grave Diggers’ does not agree to the strategy put forward by Maung Sit Naing, as it does not fit with the core principles of non-violence as well as the political-social vision of Asia’s symbol of Democracy – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Although, Burma Review understands the feelings of Maung Sit Naing and many others of their sufferings and its natural outcome of hating ‘Tatmadaw or military’ and totally negating socialization with the members of the family of Burmese Defence forces.      

However, the students and practitioner of non-violence knows that basic foundation of its strategy rests with the struggling against evil deeds not the evil doer. That’s why Mahatma Gandhi struggled against British colonial policies and not against British people and members of the family of British bureaucracy during colonial time, which was also reflected in his acceptance of the daughter of British Commander – Miss Madelaine Slade popularly known as Mira Ben as his close disciples. Although, in general it looks bizarre but power of non-violence could be only realized through practice, which is naturally very difficult for common mass, that’s why leaders like Gandhi and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are not born everyday in any nations history, which SPDC fails to understand.

Moreover, if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is generating such international support, it is only with her commitments to the grand political strategy of non-violence, otherwise it would have been very easy to kill her for any military leadership like it happened in many countries under military dictatorship and also many bright political leaders of Burma died while following violent political strategy. Likewise, here general military personnel’s of Burmese defence forces are only following orders of their commanders or SPDC and they are not against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or genuine democracy. Otherwise, like earlier occasion Burmese military or junior officers would have not refused to fire against protesting people, which had also happened in the last months of August-September protests, when on 28th of September, soldiers from the Light Infantry Division No. 66 have turned their weapons against SPDC soldiers and possibly police in North Okkalappa township in Rangoon in defending the protesters and also soldiers in Mandalay had refused to act against monks/peoples protesters.[I]     

The main purpose of publishing ‘Operation Grave Diggers’ is to prove that, how great farsighted was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, that, she could visualize the growing hatred of people like- Maung Sit Naing and other Burmese people against military nineteen years back in her first mass political rally held at holy Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon on 26th of August 1988 and her second public appearance. In which, while quoting her father and maker of Burma and tatmadaw– Bogyoke Aung San, she said, “The armed forces are meant for this nation and this people, and it should be such a force having the honour and respect of the people. If instead the armed forces should come to be hated by the people, then the aims with which this army has been built up would have been in vain.”[II] The same view, she expressed in her 24th April 1989 BBC interview, that, “it was not the intention of the NLD ‘to cause a rift between the Defence Forces and the people, and we do not want the Defence Forces to break up’.”[III]   

And, when she says about ‘national devastation’ it is in this context and not in the context which certain old element or General’s of tatmadaw wants to present in their official media – “The New Light of Myanmar” etc. It is like the same lie and distorted view, which SPDC announced in its “Announcement No. 1/2007” on 4th of October 2007 and published on 5th of October 2007 in the New Light of Myanmar, that, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is exerting efforts for “CONFRONTATION”, otherwise Senior General Than Shwe will personally meet her. Long back in 1994, she had clearly explained to the military and world about the meaning of ‘dialogue’, which SPDC translates as Confrontation till today. When Bill Richardson, a democrat congressman from New Mexico asked her on 12th February 1994, that, “What conditions do you think are meaningful? She replied, “Dialogue…Dialogue can lead to a lot of things…I want to confront them (the SLORC) across a table, and I think that’s what they mean when they say I’m confrontational, because I’ve never asked for any other sort of confrontation at all. It seems to me very strange that they’re prepared to talk to armed insurgents but not to legal political parties.”[IV]     

Her attachment, love and desire for a unified strong Burmese army or tatmadaw could be also proved, which SPDC fails to understand, when she says, “Let me speak frankly. I feel strong attachment for the armed forces. Not only were they built up by my father, as a child I was cared for by his soldiers. At the same time I am also aware of the great love and affection which the people have for my father. I am grateful for this love and affection. I would therefore not wish to see any splits and struggles between the army which my father built up and the people who love my father so much. May I also from this platform ask the personnel of the armed forces to reciprocate this kind of understanding and sympathy? May I appeal to the armed forces to become a force in which the people can place their trust and reliance?”[V]     

One of the consistent mistakes, which SPDC has been committing, is of wrongly analyzing political-social vision of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and placing it in a different scenario before Burmese people in their official media. However, it is the great maturity of the Burmese people that they understands the truth behind it and decipher the true meanings between the said official propaganda. Furthermore with due regards to the philosophy of ‘operation grave diggers’, how can a political strategy of refusing marriage proposals by Burmese women to defence forces personnel find a place in a vision of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, when we find her words, that:   

“Parents of Burma

You must give birth to heroes

Like Boh Aung San…

He will make history

His deeds will be recorded in annals

The noble Boh Aung San.”[VI]   

Although, it is true that SPDC leadership is not following the ideals of Bogyoke Aung San, but rejecting Burmese Defence forces in totality from the Burmese social life will be a wrong and weak policy to undermine even good souls of Burma’s patriotic forces against non-violence principles. More importantly, unfortunately the proposed strategy in ‘operation grave diggers’ also limits the role of any women against accepted notions of gender equality of modern age and visualizes women only as a progenitor of child and not as lively equal partner in the social-political life of any country. So even in this context this strategy has got more of male chauvinism rather than making women more participative in the political and social life of Burma   

Lastly, I’m strongly convinced by the great vision of the great eighteenth century courtier-poet of Burma, Let-We Thondara (1723-99), which was visualized as an inspiration by Bogyoke Aung San for the Burmese defence forces and remembered by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her writings and applicable to any nations army, that:     

“How superior

The tactics of war

How potent

The weapons!

Without gathering in…

The hearts of the people,

Without relying on…

The strength of the people

The sword edge

Will shatter

The spear

Will bend.”[VII]     

So readers of Burma Review should not feel that, Burma Review agrees or subscribes to the views expressed in the “Operation Grave Diggers” as a non-violent political strategy, which is far away from Gandhian or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s political visions and original principles of non-violence. And, the view expressed in the “Operation Grave Diggers” is only of author open for reader’s comments.    


[I] James Morris, Army Mutiny Reported in Rangoon, The First Post, London, UK, 28th of September 2007.

♣ Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first public appearance happened on 24th of August 1988 at the Rangoon General Hospital, however her real political journey towards freedom in Burma started through her first mass political rally organized at the Shwedagon Pagoda on 26th of August 1988.


[II] Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom From Fear and Other Writings, Edited with an Introduction by Michael Aris, Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Year 1995, p.195.

[III] Ibid., p.340.

[IV] Ibid.p.254.


[V] Ibid., p.195.

[VI] Ibid., Mentioned in her article entitled, “The True Meaning of Boh”, p.187.

[VII] Ibid., p.189.


 (THE END)   


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