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An Opportunist makes snide remarks
Subject: An Opportunist makes snide remarks about Burma's democratic leader Part 1
>Subject:An Opportunist makes snide remarks about Burma's democratic leader
>Cc:win, ncgub@xxxxxxxxxxx, allie, chochowin@xxxxxxx, strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
>From The Lady Triumph, Vanity Fair (October 1995)
>"She had an aristcratic air about her," he said. "She always thought of
>herself as part of the Burmese aristocracy, and that she had a right to
>Burma's throne because of her father...She was charming, intelligent, but
>very stubborn, very authoritarian. She was in favor of overthrowing the
>military, but she was personally authoritarian herself. Once, I remember
>her her saying,'It is my destiny to rule Burma.' I said,' You should have
>a relatively easy time because of your father's name.' She bristled. 'I
>will do this myself," she said. 'It won't have anything to do with my
>father.' 'Then why do you use your father's name?' I asked. But she just
>repeated, 'I will do it myself.'"
>These remarks were made in reference to Burma's leader of democractic
>movement, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. There is nothing really new about
>character assassination attempts aimed at any public or international
>All of us, expatriates from Burma as well as Burma activists and Burma
>watchers, on the Net know fully the Slorc's continuing attacks or a series
>of character assassination attempts aimed at our democractic leader Daw
>Aung San Suu Kyi, since she emerged as the most popular leader. The Slorc
>has used various tactics to slander "the Lady" which range from using its
>official mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar (or more accurately the
>Renewed Darkness of Myanmar) to spreading made-up stories and
>misinformation about the Nobel Prize Winning leader (e.g., the Lady's
>"foreign" sexual practices with her husband).
>Pathetic though it certainly is, this type of behavior is to be expected
>from a regime as morally bancrupt as the Slorc.
>But the above-quoted remarks came from a differnt group of individuals
>other than the Slorc: *professional* scholars with opportunistic and
>dubious moral characters.
>Who made these snide and apparently mal-intentioned remarks? And what
>could be the motive for making such damaging remarks?
>It is Michael Aung-Thwin, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the
>Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawaii-Honolulu, who
>made these remarks, apparently manufactured to portray Suu as the
>power-hungry, authoritarian, and aristocratic woman.
>Before we look into the ulterior motive of Professor Aung-Thwin, I should
>mention who he is and where he stands in relation to Burma's struggle for
>My intention here is not to throw dirt at Professor Aung-Thwin as it would
>indeed bring myself down to the level he seems to be functioning. But
>rather it is to bring to light some important historical facts that should
>and must be brought to public attention. What follows is my response to
>1) Professor Aung-Thwin has been recognized as one of the opportunistic
>apologists of Ne Win's rule by the earlier bunch of Burma activists. At
>the 1987 annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) held in
>San Francisco Aung-Thwin gave a paper titled "1948 and Burma's Myth of
>Independence" in which he essentially argued that the "real" (whatever
>that means. The author) independence came to Burma only when General Ne
>Win took over state power from the then Prime Minister U Nu in March 2,
>1962. I certainly wasn't there to hear his presentation. But I learned
>from a close friend who attended his presentation in person about the
>justifiably angry responses from the audience including a well-known
>Burma-scholar Mel Spiro and several Burmese expatriates from the Bay Area.
>In Professor Aung-Thwin's judgment,"without genuine and total independence
>(inculding being psychologically secure of one's identity), attempts at
>"progress" can be more harmful than helpful in the long run. I certainly
>do not agree that the solutions to an autonomous but open Burma include
>the type of unbriddled and "unguided" democracy...Because 1948 did not
>bring "true" independence--and instead threatened to link Burma with the
>kinds of global economic and political forces that it could not even begin
>to influence, let alone control--there had to be a severing of that
>process...Whatever the solution, it must be a genuinely "independence"
>one, though by that, I do not mean without outside help. I do mean,
>however, a solution that will preserve what the Burmese decide should and
>should not be preserved; should or should not be changed. What direction
>it should take, is a decision for the Burmese; not the IMF, the World
>Bank, or the Burma Studies Group. And certainly it is not the decision of
>the group called the Committee to Restore Democracy in Burma (pp. 32-33)."
>The paper was later included in the book "Independent Burma at Forty
>Years: Six Assessments" edited by Professor Josef Silverstein and
>published by Cornell University Southeast Asia Program in 1989.
>2) Professor Aung-Thiwn belongs to what he himself labelled "the
>Westernizing class" of whose flight Ne Win's Burmese Way to Socialism was
>primarily responsible (p.27). He (along with his Westernizing family)
>escaped the 26 year-long misrule under Ne Win's so-called socialist regime
>and never really understood nor did he seem to even try to understand what
>we all went through under the aging despot, Ne Win. (Contrast his
>position on people's struggle at home and abroad for the restoration of
>democracy in their highly oppressed society with that of his younger
>sister, Maureen Aung-Thwin.)
>After the publication of his paper, his reputation (if any) was shot among
>democratic forces and Burmese commuities abroad.
>3) Owing to his skills in academic networking (he was the chief
>administrator, i.e., director, of the Center for Southeast Asian Stuides
>at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb until recently), he was invited to
>give a lecture on Burmese political culture at the University of Oslo in
>Norway as part of the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony in 1991. The two
>well-known Burmese activist-scholars who were present at the ceremony,
>namely Professors U Mya Maung of Boston College and U Kyaw Win of Orange
>Coast College found it rather intolerable that Professor Aung-Thwin, an
>apologist of Ne Win's despotic rule, was in Oslo as part of the Burmese
>expatriates who were celebrating what was essentially the endorsement of
>the movement to end Ne Win's rule. His lecture there ended with angry
>interruptions from the audiences. It was during his lecture that most
>Burmese activists, who flew in from various regions of the world learned
>of his true colors. No sooner had they found out Aung-Thwin's apologetic
>stand than they were to beat him up. As a result, Aung-Thiwn was never to
>be seen among the Burmese expatriates at the ceremony again.
>4) On two occasions I met Professor Aung-Thwin. In 1993, he came to the
>University of Wisconsin-Madison with a renown Burmese musician, Gita Lulin
>U Ko Ko, who gave a talk on Burmese music on campus. After the event, we
>(U Ko Ko, Andy Sutton, Professor of Ethnomisicology at Wisconsin,
>Professor Aung-Thwin, and myself) lunched at the cafetria at the Student
>Union. I tried to strike a conversation with him regarding his "Burma's
>Myth of Independence" paper, and he wasn't willing to talk about it. He
>said," Well, that was a long time ago." So I stopped and changed the
>subject by asking what he thought of various Burmese and Burma scholars.
>I dropped the names of individuals who I knew personally, Paul Strachan
>(the author of Pagan: Arts and Architecture of the Old Burma), and
>Professors Joe Silverstein and U Mya Maung. He trashed each and everyone
>of them. With regards to Paul's book," It has good pictures." When asked
>about Silverstein's work," Well, Joe is too emotional and does activist
>work mainly." And of course, he didn't think much of U Mya Maung's work.)
>During our lunch, he also mentioned that he was interested in high quality
>objective scholarship and that he wanted to have access to Pagan temples
>for conservation and his research (his dissertation at Michigan was on the
>Pagan period). A few years back he was contemplating a trip to Pagan,
>Burma. Before his plan materialized his activist sister, Maureen
>Aung-Thwin came back from Burma and testified on the Capitol Hill
>regarding human rights violations by Slorc in Burma. And naturally
>Professor Aung-Thwin was concerned about the possibility of his field trip
>for Burma, as Maureen just did something which beyond doubt angered the
>On second occasion, we (his mother, Ma Maureen (Aung-Thwin),a woman from
>London Amnesty International Headquarters, and myself) were having
>breakfast at the Marriot where the 1994 Annual Meeting for AAS was being
>held. He came by and said hello to us before he abruptly harried away
>from our table. Upon his flight, his own mother who striked me as a truly
>wonderful Burmese lady, made a remark about his son's rather arrogant and
>self-important tone, "As a professor, he functions up here" gesturing with
>her hand above our head.
>Whatever remarks Professor Aung-Thwin made regarding Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
>must be seen against the aforementioned.
>Part 1 ends here.
"The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for
life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social
and economic aspirations."
>From Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's opening keynote address at NGO Forum on Women,