Na­tion­al­ists com­mem­o­rate U Ot­tama

The Myanmar Times - - News -

RAKHINE na­tion­al­ists in Yan­gon and Sit­twe last week com­mem­o­rated the 77th an­niver­sary since the death of U Ot­tama, a for­mer monk re­peat­edly jailed un­der Bri­tish colo­nial rule.

U Zaw Aye Maung, the Yan­gon Re­gion Min­is­ter for Rakhine Eth­nic Af­fairs, led a march through the newly re­named U Ot­tama Park in Dagon town­ship on Septem­ber 9. He urged Rakhine peo­ple to re­main uni­fied, and told Rakhine youth to marry within their eth­nic group to con­tinue to pre­serve the Rakhine iden­tity.

Born in 1879, U Ot­tama was prom­i­nent among Bud­dhist monks ag­i­tat­ing against Bri­tish rule and was jailed for the first time in 1921 for sedition. His death in 1939 fol­lowed hunger strikes he staged dur­ing pe­ri­ods of in­car­cer­a­tion.

His preach­ings were seen as rad­i­cal for ar­gu­ing that monks had a moral and re­li­gious duty to in­ter­vene in pol­i­tics and im­prove the lot of or­di­nary peo­ple. Al­though in­spired by Ma­hatma Gandhi’s teach­ings of non­vi­o­lence, U Ot­tama’s stance evolved into clashes be­tween monks and suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary regimes in the decades to come.

In both Rakhine State and Yan­gon, devo­tees called on the govern­ment to make Septem­ber 9 – the date of U Ot­tama’s pass­ing – a na­tional holiday.

Re­spond­ing to the re­quests, U Nyi Pu, chief min­is­ter for Rakhine, said his state could not make its own na­tional holiday.

“While I share the pub­lic’s de­sire, it is up to the Union govern­ment to de­fine na­tional hol­i­days,” he said. – Aung Kyaw Min and Yee Ywel Myint

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

Eth­nic Rakhine in Yan­gon ob­serve the 77th an­niver­sary of U Ot­tama’s death on Septem­ber 9.

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