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Happy Valentine’s Day but

I am sorry that I was not so sure who is she who passed me a chocolate coin at a corner of British Council while I was in hasty. Undoubtedly that’s someone I know there and said “Thank you” (That’s truly form the bottom of my heart.) smiling big and receiving her wonderful gift. A few hours later, when I saw U Kyauk, a graybeard BC staff from the baggage counter, I headed towards him although I did not have any belongings to claim back then. I could capture the lasting smile on that oldster’s face while I handed him that gold coin. We both laughed heartily. That feeling was really amusing and warmed my heart.

Although I am a sort of either philophobia or gamophobia, I am really enchanted seeing lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery and sending valentines greeting cards. I can sympathize how and how much those who are in love fascinated by February 14 which celebrates love and affection between intimate companions despite its origin of commemoration for early Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine. I have no objection to people enjoying the Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, I have some questions that sicken me to my fellow citizens (no one else) simply based on that.

We all are truly, deeply, madly participating in February 14 Valentine’s Day but why February 12 is so bone dry day? It’s likewise an important day for us, isn’t it? And do you remember what day is February 13? Hopefully, our generations know what the day is but definitely our successors won’t even hear the day itself and why it should be remembered.

Heart-shaped outline, doves and the figure of the winged cupid, roses and chocolates packed in a red satin and heart-shaped box can be notably witnessed everywhere around us. Sending greeting cards and gifts and dating are very common today in a conservative society like Burma. The rise of mass media at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions.

Although several parts of the world can be honoring love, the celebration of Valentine's Day is still a conflict in some Islamic countries and political parties in the 21st century. In 2011, the Iranian printing works owners' union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting the holiday, including cards, gifts and teddy bears. "Printing and producing any goods related to this day including posters, boxes and cards emblazoned with hearts or half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned... Outlets that violate this will be legally dealt with," the union warned. So, we, Burmese people are anyway favorable. (Credit: Wikipedia)

I am elated by young couples although there is a steep increase in the prices of flowers. But why is consecutive two days ahead of February 14 deemed none of your business? As we had to study since the primary, I vaguely hope most of you at my age would simply recall what February 12 is. We would celebrate the 64th anniversary of Union Day this year, wouldn’t we? It was on this day in 1947 when 23 representatives from the Shan states, the Kachin hills, the Chin hills and General Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi and the head of the interim Burmese government, signed an agreement in Panglong in Shan State to form the Union of Burma.

The Panglong agreement was a turning point in the modern history of Burma. When General Aung San and his delegation went to London to negotiate Burma’s independence, no delegates from the Frontier Areas (ethnic nationalities) were present. During the meeting, Clement Attlee, the British prime minister, insisted that Burma proper should not coerce leaders of the Frontier Areas to join the Union of Burma against their will. Aung San, however, argued that it was the British who kept the peoples of Burma apart. In an attempt to allay the doubts and lingering fears of the British government regarding unequal treatment of ethnic people in the Frontier Areas in the future Union of Burma, Aung San said, in an unforgettable remark: “If Burma receives one kyat, you [ethnic groups] will also get one kyat.” The kyat is the Burmese currency. Had not General Aung San promised political equality and autonomy to the Frontier Areas and no Panglong agreement on February 12, the Union of Burma might have never been born. (Credit: Understanding Burma’s Union Day by Nehginpao Kipgen)

Although I am a (so-called) (grand) Burmese, I should confess the reality and historical promise to my ethnic sisters and brothers. After the assassination of General Aung San one year later, failing to implement the Panlong agreement has increased mistrust and misunderstanding between the majority ethnic Burmese-led central government and other ethnic nationalities. It has been a core demand for minorities since 1947 and continues to remain a fundamental issue.

Any deliberate attempt by the military junta to annihilate any group of the multi-ethnic nationalities, militarily or culturally, is against the spirit of Union Day. Despite the observance of its 64th anniversary, the essence of Union Day is still denied to Burma’s ethnic minorities. That’s why Aung San Su Kyi is attempting to call Second Panglong Conference for authentic and peaceful National Reconciliation.

Today, thousands of Burmese youths are floating in the global stream. That’s undeniably good but we minimize how our ancestors dedicated their life, their blood and their sweat for our sovereignty and solidarity. Why don’t we appreciate the historical endeavor? Who would if we ourselves don’t care our history? Why don’t we concern we still have unfulfilled dreams yet? I am so sad the experience of very silent Union Day.

Could you recognize what February 13 is, too? As a child, it’s difficult to capture with words how I loved that admirable poem and the adorable guy in it. Our independent leader is very kind-hearted. With countless honorable achievements, the architect of Burmese Independence is a humble man. Like father like daughter! General Aung San was scarified, brave, never bowed and spoke up like his daughter Nobel Peace laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. I hear that anything about General Aung San has been removed from the school curriculum at the time of my nieces and nephews. At the time of me being a grandma, the whole country won’t learn who General Aung San is! I wont’ blame on you, I promise. Most of my peers even forget the fact that February 13 is the birthday our still widely admired late legend.

His place in history as the Architect of Burmese Independence and a national hero is assured both from his own legacy and due to the activities of his daughter. Aung San Suu Kyi was only two when her father died. General Aung San's name had been invoked by successive Burmese governments since independence until the military regime in the 1990s tried to eradicate all traces of General Aung San's memory. They assume the more we forget him, the less dangerous to them. His portrait was held up everywhere during the 8888 Uprising in 1988 and used as a rallying point. Another reason is to discriminate Aung San Suu Kyi whom many of the rural residents fantasy her as a daughter of their beloved affectionately known as "Bogyoke" (General), Aung San. Following the 8888 Uprising, the government redesigned the national currency, the kyat, removing his picture and replacing it with scenes of Burmese life. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Am I a pessimist? Am I the one who’s rewinding to the past? Do you know the statues of Ho Chi Min in Vietnamese public buildings? Remember the image of Benjamin Franklin in US$ notes. What’s the idea behind them? What does mean it to citizens? I hope you would understand my feeling.

In the rapidly moving globalization era, the word “Human Rights” is always the case in our lips. We rarely ascertain our responsibility. Do you aware that millions of children are dying because of extreme hunger and poverty while you are giving an exotic diamond ring to your sweethearts for valentine gift? Spending your time to choose the most splendid flowers and purchasing a luxury teddy bear is of course your right. At the same time, keep in mind that we have to struggle to achieve a Union Day that captures the quintessence of our unity and to be able to express our love and honor to those who we truly respect without any intimidation. Ask yourself whose responsibility it is.


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