Culture: Political Science: Misunderstood Myanmar:
Chapter IV: The Milieu Interieur (Part II),
By Koh Kim Seng, Ph.D.
International Business Executive, Political Scientist
Editor’s Note: This paper is one of a series of chapters excerpted from Dr. Koh’s book, ‘Misunderstood Myanmar: An Introspective Study of a Southeast Asian State in Transition’. With years of experience operating a business in Myanmar (Burma), Dr. Koh has first-hand knowledge and a deeply practical understanding of the economic and administrative opportunities and challenges currently existing in the country. This segment explains Myanmar’s internal affairs scenario. -JP
Addendum Notation: Chapter IV has been divided into two segments, the second of which is presented here. - JP
The Great Political Divide, Myanmar-style
The main aberration in Myanmar’s political spectrum is essentially, the kampf between the protagonists, namely: the Military Junta, which assumed power in 1988 under the label of the SLORC and subsequently evolved into the SPDC, and the NLD, the Secretary-General being Gen. Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, backed by a number of disenfranchised, disillusioned, disgruntled senior members of the old military regime, such as Generals Aung Gyi, Tin Oo among others. Such groups are essentially at least in the view of some SLORC-SPDC members,51 being bankrolled by external forces such as the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) overtly, or covertly by indirect means.52 The NLD along with all its supporters were adamant that they had rightly won the 1990 Multiparty Constituent Assembly General Elections and power should be handed over for them to govern.
Andrew Selth reckons that the situation in Myanmar is the “contest of wills” between ASSK and the SPDC but unfortunately, the fact is that the protagonists are so unequal that it is not even a fight, because among other things, Selth appreciates that the political influence of the Tatmadaw is pervasive and is increasing all the time and that it is the final “arbiter of power in Myanmar.”53 Selth holds the view that any hope for a fall-out from the military leadership is wishful thinking. Indeed, the military is increasing both in size as well as in sophistication and technology. For this reason, 35 to 40 percent of central government expenditure or 4.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or GDP goes into arms purchase.
On the claim that the NLD should be the Government by virtue of it having won the MCAGE, Col. Hla Min, who is a writer, researcher and a retired Ministry of Defense senior official au fait with the goings on, maintains that the current SLORC/SPDC Myanmar Government does not consider itself to be a political party but rather a “transitional government” and by extension, the NLD or any other political party is not “opposition.” In his view, the current SLORC/SPDC government is merely trying to discard the old, one-party socialist government, which unfortunately has been proven to be unsuccessful, and to put in place a multi-party democratic system with a market-oriented economy.54 I can comprehend what Col. Hla Min means when he wrote that “the Government is not interested in party politics but only in national affairs” being therefore a sort of “UN in one’s Country,” that is, with the Tatmadaw ensuring that peace, stability, order and security are maintained within the diverse ethnic groups within the Country. Indeed, according to Brother, this is the rationale for having the Tatmadaw reserve 25 percent of seats in Parliament in the proposed new Constitution mooted under the former Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt’s “Seven-Point Road Map” to form a democratic government.55
Taylor, while conceding that it was the military that regained the national sovereignty for the Country, adds that the Opposition’s attacks on the Government are “unwitting.” He grants, however, that the Opposition did look into support / interests from sources other than the Myanmas or Burmese people56. It seems to me that from the Government’s point of view, the Opposition is more diabolical than anything else because it appears to have the motive to “unravel” the whole system, and the Government’s fear is that without attending to this motive, the Country might finally become a “satellite” of some foreign interests, resulting finally in Myanmar becoming a “tributary” of a bigger Mandala state. On further prying into this problem with my group of respondents, the consensus was that they thought that Bob (that is, Robert Taylor) is trying to be nice and that if indeed the move to enlist the support of external forces is “unwitting,” then if at all, they are unfit to govern because it is clear that they are unable to comprehend that nothing is for free; that there must be some quid pro quo. “How do they ever hope to govern if they do things unwittingly?” Sir queried.
However, a Government official in the group volunteered thus, “if you read Hla Min, the 1990 MCAGE was more of an election cum referendum in the style of Gen. Aung San’s ‘Seven-Point Resolution’ approved on 18/6/1947, under which the Constituent Assembly was charged with drafting a Constitution through which the new Government was to operate. This tradition was again followed in 1974 when a Referendum was held to repeal the 1947 Constitution, which contained a number of anomalies since it was hurriedly put together to meet the British deadline for Independence in 1948, in the first place.”
In spite of all the explanation and clarification, I remarked that as covered by the international press, the National League for Democracy maintains that the MCAGE held in 1990 was a perfectly legitimate one, that they had rightfully won, and therefore ought to be handed power to govern. It was refreshing to note that there was no dispute over the facts of the Election and the results. What followed was the explanation on procedural flaws, the impracticabilities of any civilian running the Government (“simply no wherewithal to run the Government,” to quote a respondent), the exigency and confused state of the Country at the time, but above all, of the apprehension of the real danger of the “sell out / invasion” of the Country especially when seen in the light of the sudden appearance of the six men-of-war (naval vessels) in “action station” on 10 August 1988, off the coast in the Andaman Sea / Bay of Bengal area and the unsatisfactory explanation of this by the US Ambassador when he was summoned on 11 August to appear before the Government for an explanation, which according to Brother the response was that, “the vessels were there for the purpose of 'R and R’ (Rest and Recreation) but he could not give any explanation as to why the guns were on ‘action station’ mode, when queried! Accordingly he was instructed to advise the vessels to sail off and they did so but only into international waters, on the same day.
Quite apart from the above, I gathered that simultaneously, the Burma Communist Party (BCP) took advantage of the situation and a big battle raged between them and the 88th Division of the 11th Battalion of the Myanmar Army. As had been described earlier, great confusion was created by various local and foreign elements, such as the BBC for example, about internecine strife between the leaders and the obvious conclusion of dissolving the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) with the corresponding take over of the Government by the Tatmadaw Generals under Declaration 1/88 on 18 August 1988. The SLORC was formed and took charge of dissolving the Constitution and promulgating various new legislations.
It was clear to the Government, faced with the Conflagration and all the pressure, that some action had to be taken as soon as possible and after some two years of damage control and economic rebuilding it was decided that the ground was sweet enough to have the MCAGE held. This was undertaken in 1990 and on hindsight this proved mistaken because there was no Constitution and the Election had no locus standi, according to Sir. Also, the Omnibus Election Regulations did not spell out the terms and conditions of the handing over of power and the method of smooth transition; some essential formal regulations had to be complied with, such as submission of relevant Party financial accounts to the Government, a requirement which the NLD never complied with notwithstanding several reminders made by the SLORC on this matter. There were, moreover, complaints from the public pertaining to political parties having been “infiltrated by foreign elements” - obviously referring to the NLD - including its infiltration by BCP elements. Under the circumstances, the “higher ups” decided that power could not be handed over to the NLD.
I then asked Sir whether the above factors were not considered in the first place, thus allowing the process of election to be pushed through under their [that is, the Government’s] watch. In response Sir maintained that “the Elections was in the best interest of Myanmar, at that time.” Notwithstanding what had been revealed thus far, he added that “[if] and only if, there had not been so strong external interference and the NLD had fulfilled the mandatory requisites of the entire process, handing over power should never have become an issue.” As a final note, he added, “if NLD cannot fulfill the requisites, power can never be handed over to those - anybody, not only the NLD – who attempt to thwart the system and in the end, paradoxically have the Government be faulted for taking part wrongly in a system which in the first place the interim Government is trying hard to protect.”
The thrust of this session, it occurred to me, was to show that in the eyes of the group (and the members of the group are sufficiently high in government even though they are not exactly the ahtet lugyi) “the true bete noir is the quiescent and insidious ostensibly ‘unseen hand’ of the milieu exterieur, in this drama. Any other interpretation is illusory,” as Brother firmly puts it. The sense that was indubitably conveyed to me was that given that the controversy had been taken up strictly between the contesting parties within the milieu interieur, that is, the SLORC vis-à-vis the NLD, an accommodation of sorts could have been arrived at, notwithstanding that the ‘ideologues’ of the NLD who had been purged by General Ne Win might feel disaffected and disenfranchised. After all, these members had at some time or other been colleagues with the then-Senior General Saw Maung and the current Senior General Than Shwe, apart from some of the other members of the SLORC/ SPDC.
The solution to such a complex problem as outlined above appeared to me to be far too simple. I therefore enquired rather naively, “What then is the stumbling block towards working with the NLD symbiotically and synergistically?” The stark answer from Brother was: “We fear the repeat of history.” This instantly struck a chord in my memory because I often cannot cease to be amazed at how vividly Myanmar Generals can recollect their history, quoting chapter and verse of events and of what Aung San, Ne Win and other historic national figures pronounced. It dawned on me that any party researching Myanmar would indubitably come to the inevitable conclusion that some of the best known historians on Southeast Asia have at one time or other lived through, or had gone through the portals of Rangoon University. Indeed one would invariably note that most Myanma academics in the far flung corners of the earth are historians. And indeed because in part of their ethnocentricity and the trauma of the loss of sovereignty and independence brought about by the three Anglo-Burma Wars, they never forget. In sum, Myanmar, it seems, is a country Herodotus, Macaulay and the like would have been proud if they had taught history there, because with the Myanmas, history obviously has a life and a soul; memories which would linger and object lessons which, whether interpreted correctly or not, truly would not “wither away”, in my observation.
To validate my conception, I pushed the discussion a little further with the following question to the group: “I have often heard the commonly used expression ‘the milieu exterieur’ as being ‘tangential forces’. What is so special about this?” The response from Brother overflowed like a nursery rhyme, namely, that “in more modern times in the last 50 years the US and in more recent years its ally, the EU have created and sustained the Oppositional forces and I do not mean just the NLD. It is also the Minorities, the drug barons, the secessionists, etc., always causing a stalemate to any hope of ending the Conflagration or other disputes. The Myanmar diaspora in the Scandic countries, the US, Australia and near by in parts of ASEAN, the last under the disguise of ‘refugees,’ the financing of the KMT forces at our border and the stoking of personal animosities. If you want to go really far back, even when our Myanmar team was discussing independence in the early General Aung San days, the British were having similar discussions with the Panthay Panthay practically in adjacent rooms in London. I would not talk about other British ‘misdemeanors’ when they were our colonial masters – even important state jewelry were missing never to be seen again. I wonder what you would do in our shoes? You can now better understand,” Brother concluded, “what some of the causes of our vicissitudes are, and where the pitfalls we must avoid are.” This was quite an earful.
I felt compelled to ask, “so this accusation of the Government not wanting to hand over power and / or hold a multiparty General Election is not a matter of Fabian tactic, designed to cling onto power as is commonly believed?” BG. Myo Thant’s rejoinder was that “it is the forces of the exterieur milieu which have brought about and sustained this unnecessary problem for many years, and to what end? It only serves to sustain misery, impede progress and stunt development for everyone in Myanmar.” For everything there is a time and space. When I then enquired what the skepticism of the Tatmadaw and the Junta was all about, what followed from Brother was reminders of the early post-1988 days as well as the subsequent news conferences given by the current Senior General Than Shwe after he assumed office, wherein he openly declared that it “. . .is not the Government’s intention to hold on to power any longer than is necessary”, said Brother.
Depending on how this “stalemate” or holding onto power is viewed – by obstructionists or even destructionists of the Government - all “oppositional forces” accounts, seem to portray the Government as indulging in Fabian and Faustian tactics; that it is bigoted, perverse and self-serving (the last I am regrettably unable to confirm first hand). Indeed the Junta members are caricatured by the man in the street in Myanmar and foreigners as being highly useless people. This irksome matter ought to be resolved for the good of all the stakeholders however, I feel.
Nevertheless what came through from the SPDC’s vantage point in that they have held out the olive branch to the NLD more than once but have been “rebuffed.” The impression I got after years of probing is that rightly or wrongly, the “Lady” wants nothing short of running the Government, that she is “uncompromising not only with respect to the Government / Junta but also with her own family members and close aides a number of whom have fallen out with her,” says Brother.
It appears from accounts over various chit chats with Brother, Sir, Uncle, Cousin among other senior Government members over the years, as to why reasonable offers ought not be made to ASSK to resolve this protracted problem for the good of Myanmar, their replies varied from 1) that she has been offered a “role” in the Government but she refused. She is extremely “difficult to deal with.” 2) that while in the early days she wanted to be allowed to form the Government and to be the Government, subsequently she refused any proposal because she ‘did not want anything;’ 3) that in early days, it seems that she had the vision that within the Region, there were two ladies running governments, that is, Benazir Bhutto (former Prime Minister of Pakistan) and Corazon Aquino (former Philippine President) and so she would vie to be the ‘Third Apex’ of the Triangle.
Naturally, as is obvious considering that even representatives of world organizations are sometimes refused permission to meet ASSK, it is extremely difficult to verify the foregoing claims from the Lady. Nevertheless her ongoing dispute with her brother over inheritance of a family property, not to mention her falling out with a close confidant because of her ostensible “stubbornness” in wanting to have problems resolved her way, seem to verify the foregoing observations and this has been mentioned more than once by my key respondents one of whom said that perhaps even scholars like Michael Aung Thwin could conceivably testify. Indeed as she had publicly announced that she is ‘my father’s daughter,’ it is well known among the ruling elite that she has in all probably inherited his “stubborn streak.” Be that as it may, general “talk” seems to verify the facts as indicated.
It is also clear from many chit chats that the “worry” for the Junta is that there is abundant concrete evidence that ASSK and the NLD are being bankrolled by foreign governments so that whenever it comes to any talks or consultations with foreign governments on the topic of “transition,” the Government has to be extremely wary about any loss of control by it, to ensure that it would not turn out to be a “sell-out” of the Government - a fear which had been raised by none other than ASSK’s late father. ASSK, per se, offers no worry to the Government. It is the eminence griese57 controlling ASSK that is troubling. This is patently clear to me, after a long time and many chats with members of the Government and bureaucrats, etc., especially when viewed through the lens of the alleged “xenophobia of the Generals” generally and “Anglophobia” in particular, for historical reasons58.
Fear of Anarchy over Tyranny
Myanmas have been accurately analyzed, characterized and caricatured as being a people more fearful of anarchy than tyranny. It is essential that this be borne in mind failing which it would be extremely difficult trying to comprehend their behavior and actions.
Indeed many Myanmar analysts have failed to realize this, attributing their conduct merely to that of the truism that in the struggle for existence only the strongest deserves to survive and thereafter rule. This is one of the main reasons why Myanmar has been misunderstood.
While auslese is a Darwinian fact, my experience dealing with Myanmas is that often enough they consider whether or not this is legitimate or justifiable by a modern system of ethics and conduct even as my key respondents concede that the problem is that those who have power and rule have a tendency to abuse the power and act as tyrants as opposed to those who rule using justified power in an authoritarian manner as in some Southeast Asian states. Quite candidly, initially I too was under the impression that tyranny which is dependent on “might is right,” happens to be the maxim on which the Myanmar military operates so that it has become very much a part of its psyche, government philosophy and policy. Most external Myanmar observers view Myanmar rulers in this rather conventional light which was created and then perpetuated by them. However after adequate, prolonged and close contact with the power holders, where I differ from most is the importance I place on the government’s fear of the unknown maneuverings of elements of the external milieu. I am thus convinced that this is the main causative factor leading to their allegedly problematic and generally viewed as being “inexplicable” psyche and reactions, what I would termed the "Myanmar Exceptionalism", or their 'My (Myanmar) Way'; resulting in the 'Misunderstood Myanmar'.
Over the years, having observed a number of cases where senior bureaucrats and even members of government have taken the rap for “indiscretions” done by their family members and children, in order to prevent “chaos/anarchy in the family,” I have come to conclude as Myanmar scholar, Michael Aung Thwin did years earlier, that Myanmas can handle tyranny whereas they are quite unable to cope with anarchy.
This conduct can be taken as being empirically correct and applicable across all Myanmas. To illustrate, on one of my flights to Yangon, I saw five or six young men with very short crew-cut hair being led into the Changi Airport, Singapore. Two of them subsequently sat next to me in the plane. I guessed they were either illegal immigrants or over-stayers in Singapore. I then enquired and as it turned out, they were indeed illegal immigrants being repatriated to Myanmar. I asked if they had been caned and with a big grin and a giggle, they replied in the affirmative. I enquired if it was painful and again they giggled and added, “never mind.” Obviously it was painful. However as the caning was carried out by a “tyrannically strict” government for their breach, it did not cause any confusion or chaos in their minds.
My own experience in this connection is that in a number of instances, Government members take the wrap for indiscretions conducted by their family members instead of letting those culpable be held responsible – to allow the latter would throw the entire family into "anarchy" but for the Government member to take the punishment for the indiscretion – from a higher power/authority, even if a tyrannical one "presents no problems". It certainly is the leaser of the two evils.
Basically even in the extreme case of tyranny, where cruelty is involved, Myanmas resolve this by running to the temple to meditate, that is, to get into the vipassana mode59, content in the deep Buddhistic tenet of the impermanence of all things and as retribution for their bad karma, unconsciously leaving the more western observers to believe that they are undergoing depression and that the subject must be suffering for the “mishap” or “transgression”, which is in fact not the case!
On the other hand, governments which are wont to hold much power have a tendency “to botch up” things resulting in anarchy or, simply put, a state of confusion and social disorder because governance breaks down, unraveling everything. The Myanma psyche and ethos – at least as evidenced from my conversations and other business dealings with Myanmas whom I came to know well, in addition to my reading of history, are such that anarchy unlike tyranny throws them into total disarray. Tyranny, they can live with because culturally, religiously and philosophically, rulers are rulers by virtue of their high karma and to survive, it is purely a question of accommodating the abuse and tyrant by deferring to the man of pon, awza and ana.60
However, with anarchy, there is confusion and social disorder and this is very difficult to accommodate because everything falls out of place and cannot be easily put back as the whole human system or machinery breaks down. Whether applied on a micro-scale within a family unit or on a macro-scale nationally, the principle applies and perhaps this is why Myanmas do not feel the “oppression” of what foreigners feel and think of the acts of the Junta on the populace as being “repressive.” The ordinary Myanma does not see it this way, so long as there is no social disorder (chaos/anarchy) in the State or for that matter in the home. This is my inevitable conclusion after two decades of dealing with those in power and those at the receiving end of it – justifiably or unjustifiably.
“Pon, Awza and Ana,” and the Sangha Order
The political edification of Myanmar is a result of a fascinating interface between the State structure (government, bureaucracy) and the individual (religious orientation and culture), namely that of the concepts of Pon, Awza and Ana which despite their importance (or is it because of it) scholars and the general public do not seem to be able to agree on the interpretation as will be seen later. Thus, some view Pon as being glory, Awza as being authority and Ana as being power. Nevertheless, the Pyes seem to have delved rather extensively into these concepts.
Interestingly enough while talking to people of the milieu exterieur, including some scholars, I find that they seem to view the belief in these as symptoms of “backwardness” and “unenlightenment” yet, these same concepts happen to be deeply ingrained in the psyche and ethos of Myanmas. As far as the millieu interieur is concerned, this represents a power concept and is accepted philosophically as such in Myanmar’s governance equation and may perhaps be taken as contributing to the Junta’s “didactic” approach in governance and the implementation of policies.
In the quest of the truth, it will be seen that these themes crop up time and again in my conversations with my respondents, whether the interviews were about power with respect to the Generals or about the role of the Sangha. Under the circumstance I am of the view that it is incumbent on any student of Myanmar to be kept apprised of these notions of power which, for whatever they are worth, should be made known to those who would like to understand the Junta and its approach to governance.
This interface between politics and culture is characterized by three key cultural values that are pertinent in Myanma society as interpreted by the Pyes and represented by my key respondents. First, there is the idea of pon describing the ideal personal traits or quality deserving respect.62 Such a person exudes authority and charisma, and combines these with modesty and humble religiosity.
The national leader U Nu was believed to manifest this quality. My key respondents shared quite an anecdote about him. It seems that as he was passing through a pathway one day, he suddenly stopped. His entire entourage was curious as to why U Nu suddenly stopped and was taken aback. They found out soon enough that there was an ant trail passing through and U Nu gave way to the passing ants, not wanting to stamp on any of the ants. Although a powerful leader during his time, which allowed him also to have control of the armed forces, he did an exemplary act of kindness indicating the dynamics of pon. But more than that, U Nu exhibited a second key cultural value called awza, as demonstrated by the deference accorded him by all halting. The power imbued in U Nu by virtue of his karma constitutes the third key cultural value: ana. These three values or traits – pon, awza, and ana - are perceived by the people, elites and commoners alike, to thrive naturally in Myanmar’s successful national leaders. As one respondent – a retired government official – explained to me, “from a young age, we are ‘indoctrinated’ to strive towards these ideals but whether [a person] actually has pon is rather difficult to say exactly. You might say that whether or not one has pon depends on the mixture of the opinion of others, - a social perception which includes what one has achieved and how much power one wields.”
My personal experience dealing with government members, bureaucrats, and private individuals in business is that as a defining trait of a national or business leader, pon is pretty subjective and so it is not a very reliable “index” to go by even though this is philosophically and culturally an accepted thing. Indeed the negative aspect from my observations is that it tends to cause the subject to vacillate between the confidence of being a “big man” and the diffidence of having to “live up to the general perception” in governmental, bureaucratic environments and as a business head.
The related concept of awz,63, which one might sum up as being competition for pon in any specific social group can be even more confusing to the outsider. Upon my query, one of my respondents, a bureaucrat, explained -and it appears to me, too - that “only one person in any specific social group or community, it is tacitly understood, can have awza. From what I have noted, the devil lies in determining who has the awza because this is, “not a matter for debate or identification,” my key respondent explained. From my experience in attending important functions, this characteristic is all-implicit.
As for ana, it is apparent from all my years of interaction with Myanmas of all levels in government, the bureaucracy and the private sector that this is a very deep seated power concept. The general understanding is that ana, imbued naturally on a person, is solely dependent on his karma. “One’s ana is proportional to his karma and the greater the ana, the more powerful the person is, or the more powerful the person is, the higher must be his ana,” Cousin patiently explained to me. This combination of self and others’ perceptions of the attributes of pon, awza and ana are still very much a prevailing cultural or behavioural feature of Myanmas and it is important both at the micro- and macro- levels. In point of fact when talking about this subject with this kind retired senior government official and bureaucrat, he reminded me of what U Sein Win, Chief Editor of the old Guardian Daily in Rangoon had noted about Prime Minister U Nu’s conduct as exemplified below and he mentioned that this was generally attributed to him, obviously because he considered himself to be a man of pon, awza and ana. He explained that “generally U Nu was considered a kindly and humble man who literally would not kill an ant but when it came to a matter of any party showing any hint of disregard or under-estimation of him, (this) was greatly resented by him, obviously because it challenged his inherent awza and ana.
He continued: “Thus for example, all the old parliamentarians and bureaucrats know the story of how when U Nu arrived at the City Hall for a civic reception in 1956 the assembly present sat it through. However when Sir Hubert Rance arrived a little later, the entire audience stood up. U Nu later complained of the insolence of his colleagues. Again, when the then British Prime Minister Anthony Eden decided to visit Rangoon on a stop-over (for a few hours) in the course of his Far East trip and requested that for their meeting he should bring along with him U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein; he resented this vehemently to his colleagues wondering why those two ought to be included when he was both Prime Minister and President of the AFPFL.”
Another episode was narrated by Sir, namely that, “when Chinese Premier Chou En Lai enquired from a Myanmar Minister (U Raschid) visiting China, about the position of U NU vis à vis Ba Swe and Kyaw Nyein who were ostensibly the dominating group, he baulked and interpreted the query as doubting his status in the League64.
The whole idea was, according to this official, that U Nu was trying to register the point that as a “big person” imbued with pon, awza and ana he had absolute authority and was not subordinated to anybody, including the Socialists. This was not a case of inferiority complex, I was assured when I suggested this as the possible “problem,” because U Nu was always known to be supremely confident and assertive to the extent that he dared to “relinquish” his seat to Gen. Ne Win, in 1958,” the bureaucrat said.
My own experience attending functions when a government minister or a group of ministers is around is that I am always reminded to be polite and to defer to such men because they are men of pon, awza and ana. On one occasion when I politely remonstrated saying that there was nothing to worry about because the group of ministers present were very close friends – some of them my “brothers” ─ even the personal assistant of one of the Ministers intimated in the most polite terms that he knew of our close relationship but the fact is that these are people of pon, awza and ana. He said, “it is hard to explain what I mean but you will find out. You can even see this from their faces – that special glow,” he added. Mulling over this, indeed I too have often wondered why it is that on all official functions, even when several government ministers are around, the most senior person, the guest of honour, sits alone on a settee, in front of all the rest, very unlike western social norms. In retrospect, even when I either visit a retired minister or senior bureaucrat at his home or if they visit me at my abode, the same practice is perpetuated. We sit on separate chairs in spite of my having a luxurious settee in the lounge!
Finally, while pon, awza and ana constitute important cultural aspects in any power equation, my key respondents tell me that pon, and awza are only the “nurture” aspect as it were; the “nature” aspect ana, which is very important, is controlled by the “karmic force” of what one did in the previous life; the attribute being naturally endowed proportional to one’s karma. In building relations, according to former Minister Brig. Gen. Saw Lwin,65 it means that one has to be conscious of this conduct, characteristic and expectation of Generals. It is possible that often enough you will find that even though initially the party may be gentle and generous, there is no guarantee that he would not suddenly change and get angry because some feeling within him suddenly changes – a phenomenon he refers to as anadeh.66 Here I must say that in some 20 years dealing with government ministers, bureaucrats, and entrepreneurs, I have had the good fortune never to have experienced their anadeh, which apparently is some kind of (angry) mood swing with even the gut churning away!
My relatively long experience of dealing with Myanmas of all socio-economic strata – both public and private sectors - confirms the concept, practice and utilization of pon, awza and ana in real life, leading to unease when in the company of “unequals,” as opposed to Myanmar’s neighbouring Thais who, said Saw Lwin, “seem to thrive in unequal company. I have seen how Government Ministers, Generals and Captains move around and enjoy each other's company, so freely.” He added, “in our Country there is always some uneasiness about who has pon, awza and ana. This makes senior officials and leaders a little sceptical and uneasy about their peers.” Is it for this reason, I often wonder, that very senior people often have one or two rather clever “lieutenants” followed by a big gap of far less “competent” people hanging around them?
This conduct in my view is then usually transformed into an “unfortunate” one, that is, naturally disadvantageous to the Government and the bureaucracy as a whole, while the contradictory traits associated with both pon, awza and ana (namely being both active and passive, assertive and humble, equally knowledgeable about “this worldly” and about “other worldly” affairs) seem to compound the Myanma ambivalence towards power.
The subjective pon, awza and ana, are uncoded and unwritten, but deeply embedded in the Myanmar psyche since childhood. These cultural values create a terrific amount of misunderstanding and distrust in the whole of Myanmar’s social life, but especially in the body politic. Speaking in confidence to the more “westernised parts” of my respondent group, it appears in their self-evaluation that even granting that the experience of colonialism is an impediment to quick changes, these cultural conceptions tend to, in their words, “paralyse the effective machinery of government.” As a matter of fact, they agree that this could be one of the causative factors for the slow progress in the transition towards modernization, as “dissenting voices” are not a done thing and even government ministers become no more than mere bureaucrats not being allowed, or able, to act out of precedent, but only to submit to orders – a situation rather similar, in my view, to Weber’s attribution for the fall of the Second Reich, in Germany – lack of “parliamentarization” and the utilization of bureaucrats who are more adept at following instructions, being trained for discipline and not for “initiative or conflict,”
Politics and the Sangha Order
While the cultural characteristics of pon, awza and ana are interlaced with Myanmar’s edification of the body politic, the religious influence of the Sangha Order and Theravada Buddhism in general has pervaded the various spheres of Myanma society – public and private. Empirically, following Donald Smith, three preconditions are essential if any religion is expected to maximize its socio-political function. Firstly, due recognition and support must be accorded it by the political limb of the government. Secondly, it must bring about integration in the social and cultural life of the populace with the attendant social control. Thirdly, it is incumbent that an effective hierarchically ecclesiastical body be formed to exert influence in a coordinated way over government at the top and society at the bottom.68
My respondents affirm that the above three preconditions have been met in the case of Myanmar. Sir remarked that my having been in Myanmar for so long and having, as he recalled, interviewed academics on Theravada Buddhism as well as senior members of the Sangha for a previous thesis69 as well as in recent times again, I ought, in his words, “to be, aware of the symbols and symbolism of Theravada Buddhism found everywhere. In Myanmar, Buddhism is all pervasive. The imprints of Buddhism can be seen everywhere, and even Gen. Aung San was conscious of this.” From what I could see he meant that recognizing this in fact and in history, Gen. Aung San, being fully cognizant of the political scenario at the time when Myanmar was struggling for independence in 1946, declared that it was a necessity to draw a clear line between politics and religion because the two were not one and the same thing, that if religion were to be mixed with politics, then the spirit of religion would be offended.
“But what was the validity of this, operationally, in Myanmar? What was the scenario at the time?” I enquired. Brother’s rejoinder was, thankfully, a rather lengthy exposé of his understanding of the situation, having worked closely albeit only as some kind of a personal assistant to a couple of the top country power holders. This is how he put it: “First this was started by Gen. Aung San and the thought was repeated and perpetuated by leaders like U Nu as well. The reason was that at the time communism had gained acceptance in many countries as an alternative to the suppression and exploitation of colonists by colonialists, especially in the more secular countries. In the more traditionally Buddhist countries like Myanmar, communism was neither absorbed nor accommodated by the polity, Sangha, and Buddhist society at large, despite some of our leaders having read Marx. Nevertheless in the march to independence, some Myanmar political leaders did attempt to employ communist/Marxist methods to win political support.”
Recalling history, Brother continued with great ease, “in later years post independence leaders like U Nu and especially by the time of Gen. Ne Win when communism from both within and without the Country posed a threat, the call for a clear separation of the two elements became an imperative. On this basis, Gen. Aung San, as virtually the leader of the Thakin Movement wanted to ensure that politics was a non-racial, non-religious and impersonal movement. He held the view that a nation consists of a collection of people which irrespective of their ethnic origins must have common interests. They ought to share joys and sorrows through thick and thin or as he called it through ‘weal and woe’, irrespective of race, religious and language differences, important as these may be. They must share a commonality of interests and the spirit of patriotism.”
In a matter of fact manner Brother lamented that “this utopian state of separation of religion, politics and patriotism was rather difficult to attain because members of Sangha, the pongyis, had become partisans of political parties since the 1920s. The Arakan monk, U Ottama, during his time had already led young pongyis down the political path, when being involved politically was in vogue at the time. In point of fact, during World War II, all politically active pongyis were supposed to be affiliated to the new Dobama-Sinyetha Party (Bama Poor People Party) which was sponsored by Dr Ba Maw.”70
“U Ottama’s pitch,” Brother narrated, “was that the Sangha should cooperate to maintain the independence of Myanmar and its fatherhood in the political arena and its ancestry in the national sentiments; to be Burmese is to be Buddhist.”71 This naturally is a well known sentiment between and among Myanmas. To this Sir added, “U Ottama’s message set the tone for the Sangha members whose concern was the well being of Buddhism: to enter politics to restore Myanmar to a Buddhist government. It seems that his appraisal of the situation was culturally accurate as well as politically accurate. Prior to this, some scholars had mentioned that Myanmar Buddhism was rather loosely organized so that it needed a Buddhist state to provide the underpinnings of its authority.”72
What is well known is that throughout Myanmar’s history, the issue which invariably repeatedly drew pongyis into the political arena was the protection of Buddhism. Indeed, protection and propagation of Buddhism were among the prime responsibilities of Myanmar kings. They named themselves the “Caretaker or Custodians of Buddhism – Dharmishta”.
In the colonial era, even laymen took upon themselves the responsibility of protecting their religion (Buddhism) from the encroachment of the non-Buddhist colonizing power. Brother noted, “during the Second World War, Buddhism in Myanmar seemed to have been in great danger of being dismantled so that conflict brought about the need to have a protector of Buddhism which naturally became a national issue so that the Psychological Warfare Department of the Defense Services had to prepare an illustrated pamphlet, “The Dhammandayei” – Dhamma and Buddhism in Danger - describing the menace of communism and this caused the populace to react adversely against the communists and to denounce them strongly.”73
In the post World War II period, Buddhist nationalism became of great importance, said my key respondents, because the populace was clamoring for it. U Nu perceived this and initiated moves to restore the sacred foundation to the State and elevate religious goals as being the ultimate goals of the State.74 Turning to Brother, I ventured, “surely this was a good move because it kept people happy and in line with the national punch line of the Pyidaungsu Party; it even defeated the more secular party in spite of its more pragmatic economic and political manifesto. Buddhism is simply so magnetic in Myanmar, from what I observe.”
Brother’s rejoinder was that “it was certainly good for U Nu, at least, to use it as a strategic political election manifesto and I might add that though scholars write of U Nu’s move as having provided the Tatmadaw a ‘second chance’ to be involved in governance, it never really looked forward to it because the circumstances were such that power from my own analysis was finally ‘thrust upon’ Gen. Ne Win; there was no need for a ‘chance.’ It was from what I know, under the circumstances, a very heavy responsibility for him, having to wear so many hats at the same time.” Brother was adamant that I get ”the real picture” from him: “It was not just Buddhism U Nu offered; it was Federalism, which was what Gen. Aung San had fought against from the Panglong days. From this you can understand where our pitfalls lie and how this kind of inconsistency led to our vicissitudes. We needed integration not disintegration and separation.”
Brother then went on to elaborate and to extol how at the time, for whatever it was worth, U Nu’s election strategy reinforced the politicization of the Sangha movement, which tended to disintegrate the Union. He implied that the move would “complicate the important power architecture at some later stage.” He felt that the “candies” U Nu offered by way of unrealistic salary scales; assurance of the abundant supply of cooking oil, cigars, vehicles; telephones for everyone; the building of shrines, and/or pagoda; the concession of states practicing “animism” having the option to become separate states and for the bigger states like the Shan State being able to seek a bigger share of the State revenue could possibly give the notion that they could opt out of the Union. What was most damaging unfortunately, was whether or not he was cognizant that people living in the Yunnan Plateau were promised autonomy if they adopted the communist system towards progress and development at that time. This was the big question and the dilemma in the long term, according to Brother.
I then commented how interesting this was as research material, but what was the true significance of U Nu’s moves? Have these not benefitted the Tatmadaw?
Brother replied that “the ‘concessions’ to the States explicitly and implicitly meant that allowing too much power to the national races under this set of circumstances would allow for the possibility of communist encroachment of Myanmar. This naturally rattled leaders like Gen. Ne Win who then had to step in, fortunately or unfortunately causing increased involvement of the Tatmadaw in government and politics. I hope you can see what I mean by power having been ‘thrust upon’ the Tatmadaw leaders and it certainly was not a question of the Tatmadaw having a second chance as some scholars seem to think. It simply increased our responsibility and gave us more work.”
Brother continued with reference to Buddhism this time: “We appreciate the role the Sangha plays and the position of the National Races the latter of which had been resolved at Panglong, but not in the way U Nu accorded the Sangha so high a profile, to suit his personal agenda. This was against the very grain of Aung San’s view which he appeared to have shared with the communists at the time, ‘justifiably or unjustifiably,’ but perhaps expediently.”
Brother recollected that it was Aung San’s view that Pongyis were an “economic drain so that in his wartime speech, from what he could gather from his then superiors, Aung San had said that there were too many Pongyis in the Country who did not really participate in the Country’s affairs and were therefore having a ‘debilitating’ effect on the social, political and economic affairs of the Country. The way out of the dilemma, Aung San concluded, was to cause the Pongyis and nuns to leave the Order.” I then interjected, “surely this must have at least upset the Pongyis and the nuns and it must have had some impact on Aung San, personally?”
While conceding that the declaration undoubtedly had effects on Gen. Aung San, it was evident that no party present was prepared to make a judgment, even on hindsight. However, on the effects on the State, my respondents were more forthcoming. “It was clearer” said Sir, and “the general feeling was that the Sangha had fought side by side with the others to gain independence, so they must have been at least a little upset.” There was concession within the group that when it came to U Nu’s time, he “played to the gallery,” working on the National Races / Minorities and the Sangha, by assuming the role of “protector of Buddhism,” initiating all sorts of Buddhistic activities. This way he gained the support of the Sangha members, it seemed.
Sir remarked that the negative aspect of U Nu’s move is that it resulted in a “power struggle between the leaders of the AFPFL,” over which no doubt U Nu’s faction won. He added that actually with U Nu’s amendment of the Constitution in 1948 and his declaration of Buddhism as a State religion in 1961, along with his other “populist measures” as mentioned, he unwittingly brought about his own decline in politics and this is what led many Myanmar scholars to the mistaken view that it afforded the Tatmadaw a ‘second chance’ in the involvement of power. “There was no need for a ‘second chance’,” insisted Brother, “because all along it was the military which controlled practically everything.”
In any case just prior to and after Independence Myanmar had a weak political institutional legacy, leading to problems between and among contenders of power, leading to the assassination of leaders75, the Minorities and the Sangha, leading Sir to comment that he had read somewhere that people like Taylor had commented that “opposition was not widespread and occurred half heartedly – some was mild and some vigorous, even as Taylor conceded that there was opposition in some section, implying on the one hand timidity and on the other, oppositional vigor. However history has shown without a doubt that the Sangha is both organized and hierarchical. Actually, it was the King who appointed the Thathanabaing (the national patriarch of Buddhism), who in turn appointed a number of regional Ganejokes/Gaingyokes76 (equivalent of bishops in the Catholic Church) and other ecclesiastical officials. This was the system till at least the death of the last Thathanabaing in 1897. As for militancy, whenever there is a “stir” in Mandalay caused by monks it is followed up in Yangon and vice versa. The follow up may not be immediate but this is only because they are not quite wired up, technologically. Again over Gen. Ne Win’s demobilization and nationalization of imports/assets77 the Sangha members were up in arms.
“Now that you have asked and heard the anecdotes,” Brother commented, “you draw your own conclusions on [the impact] of U Nu’s plans, the Tatmadaw’s position and its utility / political value, the equilibrium of the power structure between the Tatmadaw, the Sangha and the National Races, or even going a little further back in history, the impact of Aung San’s moves vis – à - vis, the Sangha. As you have been researching for so long virtually like an anthropologist, you be the judge, you having spoken to people on the ground.” The point which was being made is that the government is conscious of maintaining the ‘power equilibrium’ and that it has no illusion and indeed that it can be a “hazard” to underestimate the organization and vigor of the Sangha in the socio-political arena; that as far as possible the prudent thing would be perhaps that the Government should always maintain some kind of status quo with respect to the Sangha – factors taken into account in the new Constitution, hopefully.
In Recent Times
Today, although the vast majority of the population in the Union is predominantly Theravada Buddhist, the Chins, Kachins, and a number of Kayins and Bamars together with some minor ethnic groups profess Christianity, while among ethnic Indians, there are Hindus as well as followers of Islam, with the latter also represented in the Panthay or Chinese Muslims. Due consideration for this multi-religious make-up is reflected by the Government-gazetted holidays designated, wherein along with the major Buddhist ceremonial days, Christmas, the Hindu Deepavali and the Moslem Idd are all represented and celebrated. The accent nevertheless is on Theravada Buddhism, and its ceremonial days are religiously observed by SLORC/SPDC high officials and their wives, highlighted by the restoration and renovation of a great number of ancient stupas and pagodas especially in the area of Pagan and elsewhere. Also, the raising and dedication of new edifices and organizing the procession of the Buddha’s eye and tooth from Beijing, for the populace to venerate - all these reflect the practice of kings of bygone days who were won’t to make lavish donations, fete the Sangha and renovate historic and revered pagodas, or add to their growing numbers.
Being curious as to why so much emphasis is laid by senior government members on making donations especially to senior members of the Sangha, not merely on special religious days but also practically whenever “outstation” visits are made by such generals, I enquired from the small gathering accordingly. BG. Myo Thant explained that there were two main reasons, namely the “national” and the “natural or supernatural.” On being requested to elaborate, he proceeded to explain thus: “As you are aware, we have been accused of not allowing civil society organizations in the Country, but of course most scholars who make such allegations do so perhaps out of ignorance or misunderstanding. Our monasteries are the oldest civil society organizations you can ever find because even by western definition, monasteries and those who run them, members of the Sangha, form the interface between the public and the private sector. [As] the Government we must set the example to support such organizations and accord them due deference. In this way, the general populace will also follow. It is better to have people go to monasteries to pray and meditate, following the Country leaders’ example, then to let them go around throwing stones. But, to inform you, in fact in the early days we had our Wundans (National Service Organization) which are truly civil society organizations. In such organizations young people volunteered to undertake infrastructural development duties like in construction, as firemen, trench diggers and “policeman” covering law and order duties and even if necessary be inducted into the armed forces.78 Moreover, all other considerations apart, such religious functions do engender economic development, you will be surprised how the donations - in cash and kind including commitments made during such functions - cater for the restoration and renovation of ancient pagodas and monasteries all over the Country, failing which some of these may become dilapidated. There is thus no reason for high officials and indeed all, not to show our support.”
BG. Myo Thant then proceeded to explain what he meant by the “natural / supernatural” reason. “Praying and making donations like the offering of meals (dhana/soon)”, he said, “allow us to enhance our karma and to find peace within ourselves. Merit making is the best way to deal with the Samsara (rebirth) cycle. As you are aware, the raising and dedication of new edifices and Government support for the organizing and procession of the Buddha’s eye and tooth from Beijing for the populace to venerate, are age old practices dating to the bygone days of our old kings who made lavish donations, feted the Sangha, renovated historic and revered pagodas or added to their numbers. There is no reason to veer away from such traditional practices, each practitioner for himself and collectively by the Government and for the Country and one’s after life.”
BG. Myo Thant concluded his presentation by bringing things up to the recent past. It was in 2001, he said, that “the dissemination and propagation of Theravada Buddhism, by dint of maintaining the purity and its perpetuation through the holding of the Sixth Synod or Great Rehearsal during Premier U Nu’s time, is now being furthered from another aspect, namely, through the establishment of Buddhist universities, the creation of a new government ministry dealing with this, including the exchange of visits of venerable monks from other countries in the ‘post-1988 Conflagration’ era.”
What is significant from the foregoing is that precedents are followed very closely by succeeding generations of Myanmas and change does not come so readily or quickly. Indeed, it was only in 2001 that a new colossal image of the Gautama Buddha weighing approximately 560 tons was made at great expense and trouble utilizing the dedicated services of a Government minister who is also a highly experienced engineer. He was also responsible for the transfer of this huge Buddha image by a vessel from the Mandaya Township, Sagaing Hill near Mandalay, to Yangon. It was then again transported to a hilly site and raised with great difficulty to a Victory Site (Aung Myay), on its peak. The dedication and opening of the Temple “Loka Chanta Abhya Labha Muni”79 was carried out with all due fanfare in the presence of top government members symbolically for the sake of Buddhism and therefore for the peoples’ benefit, and simultaneously as a demonstration of the power of those in charge of the Government, as this enormous task calling for the “confluence of the power and blessings of the Buddha above and the leaders on earth,” according to Cousin, could not have succeeded with the limited engineering resources available at the time. This is taken seriously by the populace at large, as you should have seen from the gaping, amazement and wonderment by the people, of the task so successfully concluded.
That Buddhism is very much a part of Myanmar culture is a given and so it influences decision making. This is applicable to most of Mainland Southeast Asian countries. Thus whenever a problem crops up (particularly a difficult one) where at the micro–level (individuals) or macro–level (national) decisions are made based most of the time by a “retreat” to some members of the Sangha who can invoke prayers “to grant blessings,” from my observation. Probing the validity of my observation in this matter, I found out from Brother that, as noted above, in the last two successful military coups d’etat in a Buddhist country in the region, in spite of all prior planning, the main actors were in Myanmar praying at the Aung Myay (Victory Corner) at the Shwedagon Pagoda, “seeking affirmation / confirmation / blessing, that the move is correct and praying for the success of their enterprise,” Brother concluded. Having done so, they returned to their country and the following day, the coups were successfully executed, to the coup planners and supporters delight, gratitude, expectation and awe! To my esteemed respondents, this was all too familiar in the context of their own experience of Myanmar politics.
Editor’s Note: Chapter 4 has been divided into two segments, the first of which has been presented above; the second and final segment of Chapter 4 will be published in the following issue of this Journal. - JP
51 SLORC-SPDC members, series of interviews/focus group discussions by author, 2004-2006, for this thesis.
52 The belief that the NLD is being bank-rolled by external forces arose many times from the accounts of former Government members, considering the “Nobel prize money,” among others as being one of the indirect aid that the NLD has continually been receiving. According to SLORC / SPDC members, they have specific details of money having been given to Opposition groups in Myanmar.
53 Andrew Selth, “The Armed Forces and the Military Rule in Burma,” in Burma: Prospects for a Democratic Future ed. Robert I Rotberg (The World Peace foundation and Harvard Institute for International Development, Washington D.C., Brookings Institute Press, 1998), Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 93.
54 Col. Hla Min is a former writer, researcher and Ministry of Defense (Dept. of International Affairs and Researcher,) an acquaintance of mine. He is author of Political Situation of Myanmar and It’s Role in the Region, Department of International Affairs and Research, Ministry of Defence, Myanmar.
55 Ibid. p.128.
56 Robert H. Taylor, “Political Values and Political Conflict in Burma,” in Burma: Prospects for a Democratic Future ed. Robert I Rotberg, (The World Peace Foundation and Harvard Institute for International Development, Washington D.C.: Brookings Institute Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1998).
57 “Eminenice Griese” Piere Joseph (Francois du Tremblay – the “Gray Eminent”) a French monk and diplomat worked his way to become a confidant of Cardinal de Richelieu (the “Red Eminent”), the Chief Minister of Louis XIII of France (1624 – 1641.) Consequently he had so much power, and acted like he was the foreign affairs minister even deciding on financing France’s participation in the Thirty Years War. Yet the real power did not lie with him but with the “eminence griese,” the “Gray Eminent.” Simply, “the power behind.”
58 This is one of my reflections/realizations based on the presentations of the narratives about Myanmar’s historical and political upheavals, which somehow best caps the discussion of the milieu interieur leading to the discussion on the milieu exterieur. These perceptions arise from a number of instances where Government members take the wraps for “indiscretions” conducted by their family members instead of letting those culpable be held responsible. To allow the latter would throw the entire family into "anarchy" but to take the punishment for the “indiscretion” from a higher power, even if, a “tyrannical one” presents no problem. The end result the government members (usually the head of the family) bears responsibility. It certainly is the lesser of the two evils.
59 The term "Vipassanā" refers to a series of meditation techniques used by many branches of modern Theravāda Buddhism, for example in modern Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Thailand, and to a specific branch of Buddhism popularized by S. N. Goenka and his mentor U Ba Khin. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and introspection. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind, providing “relief.”
60 These concepts are elaborated on a separate theme. Please see Theme Eight: “Pon, Awza and Ana,” and the Sangha Order.
62 Manning Nash, “Party Building in Upper Burma,” Asian Survey Vol. 3, No. 4 (April 1963), p. 197-202.
63 Ibid, p.197-202.
64 Based on the official/bureaucrat’s hints I researched and indeed found these anecdotes in U Sein Win’s book “The Spilt Story,” The Guardian Ltd, Rangoon 1959, p.17/18.
65 Brig. Gen Saw Lwin was the Minister of Telecommunications and also the Minister of Hotels and Tourism.
66 Lucien Pye has written about this, as referred to previously, but it seems that a number of other Myanmas I spoke too did not quite “subscribe” to this; it was more about “ana,” or perhaps they are unwilling to admit to such “mood swings.”
68 Smith Donald Eugene, Religion and Politics in Burma (Princeton University Press, 1965).
69 A mini thesis I wrote to qualify for PhD candidacy in the National University of Singapore.
70 Smith Donald Eugene, Religion and Politics in Burma (Princeton University Press, 1965).
72 E. Sarkisyanz, Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution (The Hague/Martinus Nijhoff, Freiburg University, 1965), p.171.
73 U Thant Myint, The Making of Modern Burma, Countri Dept University Press, 2001, p.254.
74 E. Sarkisyanz, Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution (The Hague/Martinus Nijhoff, Freiburg University, 1965, p.218.
75 U Thant Myint, The making of Modern Burma, Countri Dept University Press, London, 2001, p.254.
76 John F.Cady, Religion and Politics in Modern Burma, For Eastern Quarterly 14, p.152-158.
77 Jerrold Schecter, The New Face of Buddha, Buddhism and Political In Southeast Asia, Lourdes Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1967, p.125.
78 Reading of Guyot’s “The Burma Independence Army: A Political Movement in Military Garb,” in Josef Silverstein, ed., Southeast Asia in World War II, p.299 confirms this as well.
79 Loka Chantha means world prosperity, Abhaya means danger free, Labha means gainful, Muni means Saint.
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