The Guardia Weekly
A Burmese monk, award-winning blogger and citizen journalist, 27-year-old Ashin Mettacara highlights the plight of his people from self-imposed exile in Sri Lanka. For his writing about the ruling junta, he has earned several awards and the expectation of certain arrest if he ever returns home. The 20th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Burma, in which many people were killed, also happens to be the first day of the Olympics in China, which supports the Burmese regime. Ashin is calling on journalists and bloggers to boycott the opening ceremony.
I am not a political monk but just an ordinary monk from Burma helping the world to get more news from my country. I am not a reporter. My wish is just to use the freedom I have outside Burma to help the people of my country to get freedom and be away from the unbearable pain they have had to endure for too many decades.
News is difficult to get and if you get information it is hard to get the same printed in the newspapers and in the visual media, because of the tough censorship of the junta.
Buddhist monks from Burma dare not write news but, being a Buddhist monk, I have exposed those monks who helped in the killing of fellow monks; those are the pro-military monks. We have a lot of them in Burma, so I have exposed them through my blog.
Coming on 08-08-08 is the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in China and the 20th anniversary of the 08-08-1988 popular demonstration in Burma, when many thousands of people were killed under the military junta's brutal crackdown.
China is a major trade partner, major weapons supplier and major defender of the Burma military junta in the United Nations security council. Because of China's support, the military junta in Burma is still in power to this day.
I would like to call on each and every reporter and blogger around the world to boycott by not reporting information, photo and video footage of the Olympics ceremonies.
I also think it would be righteous to declare 08-08-08 as a one-day period of media mourning for the thousands who died in the 1988 demonstration in Burma, and to raise awareness of China's policies concerning Burma, the Falun Gong, Darfur and Tibet.
I started my blog in September 2007 during the uprising led by Buddhist monks. Crestfallen as I was, after the deaths of many people and some Buddhist monks, I set out on this path. I also started writing as a citizen journalist. At that time I was studying for my bachelor of arts and master's degree programme in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and graduated from the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka last year. Now I am devoted to Burma's democracy cause.
I have a valid student visa. But I do not know what will happen to me after my visa expires. I had applied to travel to France but my visa has been rejected. I am awaiting the reasons for that.
One thing they (embassy people) asked me is whether I have a bank passbook. I said no, as Buddhist monks do not maintain and keep bank passbooks. A monk survives on the donations from his followers.
Many people have requested me not to go back to Burma but I want to, 100% sure. I tried going back after the Nargis cyclone but I could not. The military regime is fearful of the media and monks. Some of my articles have been broadcast by VOA (Voice of America), sometimes by DVB (the Democratic voice of Burma, based in Oslo) and RFA (Radio Free Asia).
Pro-junta soldiers studying in Russia criticise me a lot on their blogs, anyway I have to do what I have set to do, that is to openly take on the might of the Junta.
People often ask me questions about my life as a priest. I say to them, Buddhist life as a priest is peace. No need to worry for anything, ie food, money and family, but studying, helping people, blessing and meditation. A monk has to lead a life of celibacy. He cannot touch a woman's hands, it is a strict no-no. If you see the current situation in Burma, it is monks who are helping and working for the people.
In Sri Lanka I have launched several successful campaigns to expose the wrongdoings of the military regime in Burma and drawn the attention of world leaders, thanks to the help and cooperation extended by the Sri Lankan government.
I can also escape censorship and impending prison life here. I have been able to report on the sufferings of the monks and provide inside news from the monasteries of Burma, which I did during the September revolution and I am still doing. I did those things as a blogger.
This year I completed my studies. I devote at least eight hours of the day to uploading my blog and writing on issues affecting my people.
I update the blog and news from Burma through information from friends. It is easier to get news information, but after the crackdown on bloggers I face difficulties in upgrading pictures from Burma. My friends, they do not dare to send pictures to me. All internet users are being watched by the junta. Bloggers' lives have been made difficult, many of them have landed up in prison, more than 100 – I am not sure of the figure as information is very difficult to get. One prominent one was Nay Myo Latt, who was arrested by the government after a critical posting about lack of political freedoms in Burma.
I know and I have definite information from my friends that the junta is unhappy over my blog and the moment I reach Burma they will arrest me and I will suffer the same fate as the other bloggers – torture and a life of solitary confinement in a prison cell.
Censorship is not a new thing to Burma. Ever since they began their rule they have been cracking the whip on dissenting voices in the media.