Ashin Kovida: “Change Will Come, No Matter What.“

Kovida_Jorn CHANGE WILL COME, NO MATTER WHAT. AS A BUDDHIST MONK, HE HAS BEEN ACTIVE IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN BURMA FOR YEARS. A DANGEROUS TASK, WHICH CAUSED HIM TO FLEE HIS COUNTRY IN 2006. HE CONTINUES HIS STRUGGLE FROM SWITZERLAND. ‘MORE PRESSURE IS NEEDED TO GET RID OF THE REGIME. BUT A DEMOCRACY WILL COME.’ Two years ago, large scale protests broke out among the people in Burma. Students, monks and others demonstrated against the military junta which has been ruling the country with an iron fist since the sixties. Because people filmed the protests with mobile phones, the whole world witnessed the events. Monk Ashin Kovida (1973) also followed the events from his new country Switzerland. He had fled Burma nine months earlier. Where he taught English in a monastery. He regularly spoke about subjects like democracy and human rights with his students, which is forbidden by the regime. He also talked to foreigners. “Most tourists in Burma only get to see the façade which the regime presents to them. I wanted to show them what was really going on.’ Because of this dissident behaviour he was in danger and decided to flee to Switzerland. A befriended Swiss couple was willing to help him. ‘It proved I was just in time. Two months after I left, my monastery was closed by the authorities.’ ‘I continue to tell my story’ During the protests two years ago, Kovida found it hard to watch and not be able to do anything. But even from Switzerland, he could do something. ‘Almost nobody knew anything about the situation in Burma. The media invited me to talk and explain. This way, I could raise awareness of the situation. Funny enough, this attention disappeared after two months. As if everything was ok again. In reality, things were only getting worse. Monasteries were raided, monks were arrested and tortured. That’s why I will continue telling people the story about Burma.’

This summer, the Burmese monks put an ultimatum to the regime. They expect an apology from the generals about the crimes that were committed before 2 October, otherwise there will be an alms boycott. Because monks are not allowed to work for money, they live off alms donations. In Buddhist Burma, people like to give alms to monks, because this is good for their karma. The authorities also join in this. Kovida finds this hypocritical. ‘They do everything to impress the people. By pretending to be good Buddhists, they hope to gain the people’s support. Behind the scenes, they close monasteries and torture monks. There’s nothing Buddhist about that. If the alms donations will not be accepted anymore after 3 October, they will suffer a big loss of face.’ An alms boycott will definitely pressure the regime, but is not enough according to Kovida. ‘A lot more pressure is needed to get rid of the regime. Both from within Burma as well as from the international community. Albert Einstein once said that the danger in the world does not come from bad people, but from those people who support and tolerate them. The military regime would crumble instantly if Russia and China would want that. It is good that Amnesty and other NGO’s put pressure on those countries. I also support economical sanctions, they hardly hit the Burmese people themselves. More than 90 percent of the population lives in the countryside and works as a farmer. The Burmese companies that the international community does business with, are owned by the regime. They are mostly hit by possible boycotts.’

Kovida remains optimistic about the future of Burma. ‘I believe we will win soon. The regime will be driven out and a democracy will come. With Aung San Suu Kyi as our leader. Until that time, we need to make people aware of the situation. The pressure on the authorities needs to be increased. But change will come, no matter what!’



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s