‘Trauma Will Last Long Time’: Ko Ko Gyi

Ko Ko Gyi (left), Min Ko Naing (center) and Myat Aye address the issue of sectarian violence in Arakan State at a press conference in Rangoon in June. (PHOTO: 88 Generation)

Ko Ko Gyi (left), Min Ko Naing (center) and Myat Aye address the issue of sectarian violence in Arakan State at a press conference in Rangoon in June. (PHOTO: 88 Generation)

It will take a long time to resolve the situation in Arakan State and to cure those who are now suffering from trauma and fear, said Ko Ko Gyi, the leader of the 88 Generation Students group, who was one of several representatives to visit the region last week to observe the situation on the ground and to provide food aid to victims of the violence.

“It might take a long time to treat all the victims,” he told The Irrawaddy on Monday. “Especially the Arakanese [Rakhine Buddhists] in Maungdaw Township. We found that they do not want to stay there any longer. They want to abandon their native towns and go to live somewhere else.”

Ko Ko Gyi said that his group only encountered displaced Arakanese Buddhists in shelters in the Maungdaw area, which was one of the major scenes of riots and the burning of houses over the past month.

“There are only Arakanese refugees in Maungdaw, unlike in Sittwe where both Bengalis [Rohingya Muslims] and Arakanese are staying in shelters,” he said. “We found that 97 percent of those still living in their own homes in Maungdaw are Bengalis.

“We visited Bengalis in camps in Sittwe and found they were living in poor and crowded conditions with a high population of children,” he said.

The 88 Generation Students leader said that his group discovered that every Arakanese Buddhist village in Maungdaw was burned down, as was every Buddhist temple.

According to Burma’s state press, at least 80 people were killed in the month-long violence and hundreds of houses were destroyed. The UNHCR said about 91,000 people have been made homeless, a majority of whom are currently sheltering in temporary camps.

“An old Arakanese man told me that he wanted to leave his native town because Buddhist people were a minority and the situation was too scary,” said Ko Ko Gyi. “This is despite the fact that the land and water of the area is Arakanese.”

Ko Ko Gyi told The Irrawaddy that his group’s surveillance of the situation in Arakan State left them with the impression that local authorities handled the conflict very poorly. He said the government must settle the issue of the citizenship law properly before the country can return to peace.

He said his organization will continue to provide aid to homeless people, both Buddhist and Muslim, in the region, and that it had hosted a public donation ceremony on Sunday in Rangoon.

In early June, Ko Ko Gyi accused “neighboring countries” of fueling the unrest in Arakan State, and stated categorically that the 88 Generation group will not recognize the Rohingyas as an ethnicity of Burma. He said that his organization and its followers are willing to take up arms alongside the military in order to fight back against “foreign invaders.”

Chris Lewa, the director of Arakan Project which works closely with the Rohingya community in Arakan State, responded to Ko Ko Gyi’s statement by saying, “It is regrettable that prominent Burmese human rights activists portray Muslim communities in Arakan State as foreign troublemakers, suggesting that they are the main perpetrators of such ethno-religious violence when they are actually the main victims. Minority rights are human rights, and should be recognised and respected to achieve true democracy in Burma.”

Burma’s presidential office released a statement on July 12, a day after Thein Sein held talks with UNHCR head Antonio Guterres. It said it could not accept illegal immigrants [such as the Rohingyas] and urged the UN to take responsibility for them.

Local authorities brought three UN aid workers before a court in Maungdaw last week, one of whom was charged with treason while another was released. A total of 12 local aid workers, a majority of whom work for international agencies such as the UN and Médecins Sans Frontières, were arrested and detained in June, accused of involvement in the unrest.

New York-based Human Rights Watch released a press statement on July 5 saying “local police, the military, and a border security force known as Nasaka have committed numerous abuses in predominantly Muslim townships.”

It urged the Burmese government to “end arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and redeploy and hold accountable security forces implicated in serious abuses.”

Elaine Pearson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The Burmese government needs to put an immediate end to the abusive sweeps by the security forces against Rohingya communities. Anyone being held should be promptly charged or released, and their relatives given access.”

Burma’s security forces have been implicated in killings and other abuses against Muslim civilians since the sectarian violence in northern Arakan State began in early June, said Human Rights Watch, urging the Burmese authorities to ensure safe access to the area to the UN and independent humanitarian organizations.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, Eva Kusuma Sundari, slammed Burmese President Thein Sein in a press release for failing to respond to the sectarian violence in Arakan State, and said the Rohingya who have lived in Burma for generations must be recognised and granted citizenship. “I feel it is important to express my deep regret for the failure of the world to react appropriately to the killing and persecution of Muslim ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State,” she said.

21 Responses to ‘Trauma Will Last Long Time’: Ko Ko Gyi

  1. Come on, KKG. What do you mean by “the land and water of the area is Arakanese”? Who gave sole rights to Northern Rakhine to Buddhists alone? Can you show me their land permits? It is not surprising that KKG has said such. It is socalled terrotorial integrity. Now,KKG is shouting the same slogan that the Burmese military has been shouting for many decades… “We will never lose an inch of our LAND.”
    If Northern Rakhine (Buthidaung, Maungdaw) is owned by Rakhine Buddhists, how about Shan State or Chin State? Do Shans alone own the whole Shan State? Do Chins alone own the whole Chin State? Do you really understand what OWNERSHIP means, KKG? I doubt you do.
    And most surprising is KKG’s short-sighted and narrow-minded view. How come he could draw a conclusion by listening to a crying Rakhine man? I am really sorry to see the future of Myanmar handed into those hands of people like KKG who are just as nationalist and racist and xenophobic as their once brutal military rulers! I am worried about the future of Myanmar’s democracy. And my advice to KKG is: please be careful with your tongue if you wanna be a real politician. Everything you say today is recorded. One day you will have to answer.

  2. Terribly disappointing to read such hateful comments from Ko Ko Gyi. Does he really believe he can help the situation in Arakan State by making rallying war cries against a minority group and saying the 88 Generation Students are “willing to take up arms alongside the military in order to fight back against “foreign invaders”? I find his comments reprehensible.

    I agree with him that local authorities and Thein Sein’s government have handled this crisis very poorly, but would be very interested to press him for details on exactly which “neighbouring countries” he believes are fueling the unrest. The Burmese government is the only one scoring points with this mess, mostly by playing to the Burmese people’s nationalism and racial fears, as is Ko Ko Gyi himself.

    However, I do appreciate Ko Ko Gyi’s exceedingly precise mathematical skills in being able to determine that exactly 97% of residents in Maungdaw are Bengali! Perhaps he should head the 2014 Burmese Census Commission rather than encourage violence in a place that sorely needs peace, calm, and understanding.

  3. After natural or man-made disaster, the victims have suffered for the unwelcome unwanted incidents. Of course, the victims, Rohingya as well as Rahines, who had seen killing, torturing, looting, burnig will have trauma deeply. It was their night mare. What about these guys, my comarades, who were in jails, in military lock-up, intelligent head quarter and they might be tortured, physically or/and mentally, have trauma? Will it take longer or you have forgot after top-rank military generals shook your hands?

  4. A catastrophic tragedy! A disastrous episode, still on.
    It is the duty of the Union government through the Provincial government to look after all Myanmar citizens, regardless of race, creed or color.
    This is the only way the Union government, and the local one, really can show their worth in hard work for the betterment of the country. There is no character worse than that of refusing to accept responsibility.

  5. Sorry to say the 88 generation was born under people like Ne Win who has totally destroyed the country.They have not seen what Burma was and where it could have been compared with its surrounding countries.

  6. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    What a shame to see Rakhine are wiped out from Maungdaw Village! So call Burmese army has the gut to kill monks, innocents Burmese people and all its political opponents but not Bangali.

    Should current Burmese military dominated govt really believes Bangali as illegal immigrants, why not take legal actions or create refugee camps for them.

    Stop manipulating the situation because it doesn’t worth it to make better Burma.

    Even though INGOs fall into USDP’s trap by showing only one sided bias toward Bangali and very narrow mined self righteousness toward the whole situation, NLD and the rest of the Burmese people inside and out side still has mindfulnest of the situation.

    Enough is enough! This is your – USDP’s political minefield, the dirtiest trap for NLD and the rest of Burma.

  7. “I feel it is important to express my deep regret for the failure of the world to react appropriately to the killing and persecution of Muslim ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State,”


  8. I’m moving to the Arakan State for my health. I’m paranoid and Maungdaw Township is the only place where my fears are justified.

  9. So, to become a democratic country, we are suppose to ignore the majority of public opinion in Burma that we don’t recognize the illegal aliens? What is UNHCR ? Who is Chris Lewa? Have you got any idea how Arakans feels threatens in their own land? While we are still trying to settle with our other genuine ethnic groups of our country, we are suppose to prioritize this group who is not our ethnic? Problem with human rights groups is that they have to exaggerate all issues for their continued existence.. so to maintain respect on their organization,please try not to bark too loud all the time and try to see the other side of the issue. Besides, stop making this issue like religious issues – there are many muslim Arakanese ( not same as Rohigya) and other muslims living throughout Burma without any problems. Most citizens of Burma will surely side with Ko Ko Gyi’s statement. And UNHCR, please try to ask Rohingyas to do some family planning so that they will stop breeding mouths they cannot feed! Thank you.

    • Ma Lay, you sound like the Rohingya are more productive than Rakhines. Can you prove it? Are the Rohingya careless in giving births? Do you mean Rakhines are very systematic in family planning? Don’t Rakhines get married and have kids in Rakhine State? Please give me some statistics. Can you say with confidence that the Rohingya families are always or usually larger than Rakhine families? Haven’t you seen big Rakhine families? Come on! It is population growth according to development stage. When people are poor and from low socio-economic backgrounds, they tend to have more children. You will understand it if you look around. Generally, put, Burmese in places like Yangon have less children than Burmese in villages. It is because of socio-economy. Don’t spread false claims that the Rohingya families are bigger and have more kids so one day Rakhine State will be swamped by the Rohingya. Shame on you!

      • Ma,Lay ,you will size all arable land and make them poor and say you have know wright to reproduce baby.please think broadly every man should be equal..

  10. Maung Kyaw Nu ,A former political prisoner of conscience

    Shame Ko Ko Gyi .Don’t sale the former political prisonrs’ name to buddy with dictator. You are a racist and blind supporter of Army government. Get out from democratic groups.You make a black History in the name of student politic.

  11. Wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment of President Thein Sein et al not only caused damage to Rohingyas and Rakhines, but It could cause bleeding of the whole country to fall into Balkanization. Kachins and Karens are closely watching this incident as a bench mark and they will decide potential peace building based on the attitude of soft liners & hardliners in USDP, DASSK& NLD and 88 Generation etc. Rohingyas (or Bengalis) are tiny minority in relation to Burma’s 60 million people but please remember the whole world is watching the progress and the outcome may have great impact on the future of Burma. Dear President Thein Sein, don’t be elated too much with Uncle Sam’s recent abrupt lovely French Kiss. Those leaders who had such French Kisses never had a good ending such as Saddam.

  12. Deport all these bengalis to where they belong. And that is not MM.

  13. Some Buddhists comprising of Burmese 88 generation students leader, Ko Ko Gyi,are very extremists. Ko Ko Gyi is extremely racist and is not suitable for a democratic leader. He openly stoke more attacks on the Rohingyas. I am one of the 88 generation student and actively preaching for democracy in Burma. Why has not KO Ko Gyi mentioned about Bengali Rakhine recent migration/commers to Arakan? In fact, Ko Ko Gyi is one of the colonizers who invaded Arakan in 1784,massacring thousands of Muslims (Rohingyas)and forcing hundreds of thousands of others to Bengal. Do you know that Arakan was a Hindu land before BC and shortly after the BC? Read about Hindu’s Kingdom of Arakan! Rohingya Muslims have some similarity with that of Hindus who were evolved from the soil of Arakan. Unfortunately, Rakhine immigrants from India and Mongolians joint hands and massacred the Hindus and destroyed Hindu kingdom.Today’s Rohingyas are, among others, the relics of those Hindu’s dynasty in Arakan.

  14. These 88′ generation peoples are not born or baby at time of Mujahid surrendered time, so they do not know any thing about the situation of Arakan. There were no Arakan kingdoms exist, but existed as Danyawaddy period, Vissali period, Pa’rain Period and Chandarrar Dynasty were grandly existed in Arakan. These all periods or Dynasties are totally Hindu Kings look at stupar and zaydi style of constructions are Hundunize not look like Mon zaydies. At the time of India Mugul Empire influence in Arakan, the Persians, the Hindus were converted to Muslims some reamin as Buddhists.
    Many Persian descendant ( such as U Shwe Hla Phuy’s family of Akyab=Sitwe ) still alive in Arakan with Buddhist faith.

    No matter what ever may be the history is in another side discussion, so now The Muslims of Arakan those you can call Bangali or dogs, but they are human beings, a human bein must have human rights, and human dignity in human society, how can you expel them from their generations of home land the Arakan.

    Before we talk any things first of all it is required to study and pors and cons is required to accept.
    Blindly talking does not provide the real answer, even some time back fire.

  15. Dear 88 Generation

    It is very clear events of forgotten our people Arakanese living with totally different native on the border are always discriminated by just arm forces and ill treated by government.

    We have to solve this problem with decisions from Arakanese and all of ethnics in Union of Myanmar.

    It is not role playing for cabinet.

    The voice of all should be issues of response to International concerns.

  16. I am not surprised, the Buremse nationalists have Ko Ko Yi their icon since his first statement. I wonder how human rights activists around the world, who fought for his and his fellow 88 students freedom, feel now… most of the 88 students have been in prison for many years, they have been tortured and mistreated they should not be running around as politicians, they should be treated for mental problems, I think. They are on the way to becoming what they have been fighting against.

  17. There is double standard in Burmese immigration system. If anyone who is Buddhist & looks like Rakhine national enters into Arakan from Bangladesh illegally, he or she automatically becomes Burmese citizen on the spot. However, unfortunately, most of Muslims who lived there for centuries are labeled as outsiders. They know real Muslim history of Arakan. But they have been trying to erase it. Muslim history in Arakan can be proven scientifically & historically. They don’t want to focus & differentiate between right & wrong. But Buddhist & Muslim. After 1942 genocide, hundreds of thousands of Muslims already left their home land Arakan. Left over generation doesn’t have opportunity to escape safely from there the place like open prison. Logically & practically no Muslim dare to migrate into Arakan due to brutal persecution. Nonetheless, they are still claiming that Muslims are coming from Bangladesh. Thanks God I’m not there anymore.

  18. My words on Ko Ko Gyi’s blind rmarks on native Arakanese Rohingya people……..

    Dear 88 Generation Student lader, Ko Ko Gyi,

    Take this message for your life-time. You expressed very bad remarks on native Arakanese Rohingya people without knowing indetails of Rohingya existence in the land of Arakan. You also violated human rights against the Rohingya people who have been suffering under Burmese Military regime since 1962 to present. You said that Rohingyas are Bangalies and they entered recently from Bangldesh to Burma. If so, do you have any valid evidences that ohingyas are Bangladeshi people? You are just acting on the tone of Rakhine racist RNDP leaders and its collaborators who actively start campaigning to wipe out the Rohingyas from Arakan and so that, the Rakhine can dominate the whole Arakan for their freedom.

    I think you should thoroughly study the real history of ancient Arakan as well as you have to take class to know what is human rights, what is ethnicity and what is the essence of democracy in the human enviromental society. That’s all I have to say you at this time. Your statement and every words are should be balanced and rational for all concerned human beings in the earth disregarding race, religion, culture etc… Arakan is for all people who are living there in the past, present and in th future.

  19. Dear KKG,

    Please do not try to make such kind of blatant statement that can divide the community and creat a high racial tension between Muslims and Buddhists in our motherland Arakn State. You are not an Arakanese nor residence of Arakan.

    You are a Bama and residence of Yangon. So, you do not have the rights to make racial comment which can affect our relation with each other between Muslim and Rakhines. It is not the Rakhine people who is dividing and creating the problems all the times in Arakan, it is the Central Government with its associated some of our Rakhine extremists in the Rakhine State Government who started present genocidal campaign against our longtime fellow community Muslim people who has been living in Arakan for many centuries.

    Whatever these Muslim people claim like Rohingya ethnicity is not a big problem for our genuine Rakhine people, but, from the human rights aspects, they should be treated as Burmese citizens of Burma because they once belong to recognized Rohingya people by our previous democratic Government from 1948 to 1962. They once had Rohingya radio broadcasting program and it was aired by the BBS program until Ne Win repealed it in 1962. The word” Rohingya” is mentioned in the ancient Arakan history which was hidden today by our Burmese historians like Ako Aye Chan, Ako Khin Maung Saw (Balin), and Ako Aye Kyaw in New York city and other our Rakhine extremist leaders. Please be careful KKG. You have to know much more to read the History of our Rakhine prey and its ethnicity.

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