State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi wears gloves and a face mask as she pays respects to her late father, General Aung San, during a ceremony to mark the 73rd anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon on July 19. (Photo: AFP)
In commemorating Martyrs’ Day, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has called for building a nation with peace and prosperity, love and hope as the conflict-torn country remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia.
He said the blood of the martyrs should have been the seed of peace and harmony in Myanmar.
He said when the leaders were trying to sow the seeds of “democracy, equal rights for all,” evil people schemed together and sowed hatred and sorrow among the nation by mercilessly shooting down the national leaders.
“Not only the leaders died that day. The dream of a peaceful and prosperous Myanmar died that day,” the cardinal said in a homily on July 19.
This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the death of nine national martyrs who were assassinated on July 19, 1947, a year before Myanmar gained its independence from Britain.
Out of the nine national martyrs, five were Buddhist, two were Muslim, one was Christian and another was Hindu.
The cardinal said the seeds of hatred and violence sowed that day continue to bleed the nation, perpetuating chronic wars, jeopardizing the lives of millions as refugees, internally displaced persons and migrant workers.
He cited the country’s development when it was hailed as a golden land among the richest in Southeast Asia in the 1960s.
He said some “evil people as in the parable came at night and sowed the seeds of poverty and it has grown into a forest. Now we are one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.”
The 72-year-old cardinal said the founding fathers including General Aung San did not shed their blood to make this land “a showcase for poverty. They gave themselves as seeds of wheat, seeds of prosperity, seeds of peace for this land.”
Cardinal Bo stressed that power, conflict and economic and environmental looting have left this country in sorrow.
“Democracy is the seed that is growing slowly, freedoms and rights are growing slowly,” he said. “But our martyrs’ spirit will rest in peace only when every man and woman in this country lives in basic dignity, safety and security and enjoying all the freedom.”
“The time has come to identify the weeds and uproot them and burn them in the furnace of history. Let us sow the seed of peace and prosperity and let there be a new Myanmar of hope and love.”
Thousands of people across the country’s 14 states and divisions commemorated Martyrs’ Day but this year's event was low-profile due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
People bowed in silence for 90 seconds as the clock approached 10.37am, the time when the nine martyrs were gunned down in Yangon, allegedly by armed paramilitaries of former prime minister U Saw. Sirens blared and drivers honked their car horns to remember the tragedy.
At the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon, the commercial hub of the country, the ceremony was held with limited numbers of government officials and relatives of the fallen leaders observing social distancing rules imposed by the ministry of health and sports.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San, laid a wreath and paid respects to her father at the mausoleum.
From 1988 until 2011, military leaders had largely shunned the official commemoration but Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing has attended the ceremony since 2016.