VOA Burmese Blog

July 2, 2010

Australia Kicks Burmese General’s Daughter Out of the Country

– Kaye Lin

AP photo: Four of Burma's Military Leaders

The Australian government has forced the daughter of a senior Burmese general, Zin Mon Aye to leave the country. Australia has a policy against the country of Burma which sanctions the country in order to target the top military members of Burma. Zin Mon Aye was studying at a university in Australia, and she was forced to leave Australia after the government found out her familial ties to the Burmese military regime.

People say that the Burmese general’s daughter’s presence in the country opposes Australia’s aims at promoting democracy in Burma. Therefore, as the country targets the Burmese military regime, the policy is also targeting the families of the regime.

Zin Mon Aye is fighting to remain in Australia. Her lawyer has said that Aye is the victim in this policy- she is innocent. Zin Mon Aye has said that she does not rely on her parents financially to attend the university. She does not see why she is being punished for her father’s association with the Burmese regime. She has said that she wanted to obtain citizenship in Australia and planned to live there after she had gotten her accounting degree at the university.

Is it moral to kick the General’s daughter out of the country?

There is a lot of controversy circling this situation. Is it moral or ethical to target a woman because of her father’s association with the military? Even in the office, we are debating over that matter and have had quarrels with the story.

Many of the people in the office believe that it is the Australian government’s right to stand by their beliefs and sanctions. If Australia is adamant about their values on democracy, they should implement it, they say. Since the Burmese military leaders are corrupt, they are using blood money, and this blood money is being deposited to democratic countries, like Australia.

I understand this side, but I still think to kick a woman out of the country is unjust. She is innocent, and she is being punished for her father’s actions. I think that as a democratic country, they should be willing to take her in and make her aware of what a “ free democracy” truly means. The girl is trying to get an education, and the country has a great opportunity to educate her well of democratic and moral principles. I think they could have used that to their advantage instead of shunning the poor girl.

If we shun our enemies or the families of enemies, we are not winning. We are not opening up engagement or opening our understanding or theirs. Simply, we are just going on with the ongoing circle of bloodshed and war. Furthermore, I think Australia will be crippled by this case. Zin Mon Aye will have resentment of Australia and how they had given her unjust treatment when all she wanted was to be given the right to study and to be treated equally.

What do you think of this case?

I also wanted to ask if you think it is ironic that the Burmese military leaders with so much money and power send their children to study in rich democratic countries. The children of the leaders, either live abroad and live rich lives, or go back to their countries with the education they have achieved, and still continue to work under their parents. Did their education pay off ?

Let me know your thoughts.

21 Comments »

  1. Australia can choose to deport anyone it wants, just so long as it does not then make a claim to being a civilized democratic nation. I feel that it was most unjust to have deported the girl.
    I am not a goverment supporter. The Burmese government has oppressed its people and it deserves to be villanised.
    What is unfair is to deport a girl just because of her family ties. And what is worse is to do so without even bothering to get all the facts. This girl’s father is a brigadier general of the airforce, but he is NOT a decision maker and has no power AT ALL! ‘Brigadier general’ of airforce is an empty title, as only the army generals have real power and are the real decision makers.
    In their haste to hand out justice, the western nations have not even bothered to learn all the facts and have imposed sanctions on all members of the military they thought are senior and also on their immediate family members.
    Unfortunately, the girl did not even receive the support of the Burmese community which should have spoken against this injustice, as there is a strong prejudice against anyone even remotely connected to the dictator goverment.

    Comment by R — July 8, 2010 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for reading R. There are mixed feelings about this controversial subject, and we thank you for your input. Please keep reading the blog. We hope to hear more of your insight. – Kaye

      Comment by voaburmese — July 8, 2010 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  2. To me, it’s only fair that if her father and his family is in the sanctions list, whether her father is not a decision maker but just a boot-licker of Than Shwe, then she should be deported. Not only that she should be deported the person who sponsored her should be too. What is good for the goose must also be good for the gander. Her father doesn’t want ordinary people to enjoy democratic freedom but his daughter should; ordinary people can’t have decent education but she should. Come on R where is the Australian ethos of ‘fair go’.

    How do you know that her father’s rank is just an empty title? Doesn’t the money comes with his rank? Doesn’t that money pay for her daughter’s education? Take a cold shower (even it’s winter here) you need a cool head to think straight and not with your fuzzy logic.

    Comment by Tettoe Aung — July 16, 2010 @ 10:37 am | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Tettoe! I enjoyed your perspective and the idiom ” What’s good for the goose must also be good for the gander”. A good ” aha” moment. Please let us know what topics you would like to be discussed in our news segment on http://www.voanews.com/burmese as well as on this blog. Hope to hear more from you. – Kaye

      Comment by voaburmese — July 16, 2010 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  3. So few of the “facts” as regards this case are available, it is difficult to avoid taking the obvious into account. If the General had wanted to send his daughter to attend university in Australia, how would he go about doing that?

    The backstory that out of millions of needy Burmese citizens, a Burmese general’s daughter would be chosen by a non-corporate, non-Burmese do-gooder to to be sponsored to attend an Australian university all the way through to a Master’s degree seems disturbing, and all too convenient to the question of how a Burmese general might go about getting his daughter an Australian student visa.

    Considering how the Burmese military is used to deny an education to the children of millions of Burmese ethnic minority citizens by destroying their schools, the expulsion of Zin Mon Aye seems to be an ironic case of “what goes around, comes around”, or perhaps even Karma. The excuses that her father, a Brigadier General who is the commander of an airbase, is simply a bit player in the brutal SPDC regime don’t impress me, that is like saying a woman is a little bit pregnant.

    As for Zin Mon Aye’s claims that she had planned to reside permanently in Australia, why didn’t she renounce the SPDC and her family which she claimed to be estranged from, and seek political asylum when she came to Australia in the first place?

    Was she just keeping her options open? Did she decide later to bail-out on Burma? And if her plan was to live in Australia all along, how would her education have effected the Burmese people she left behind in any positive manner?

    While I find it commendable that her friends are so vehemently defending her rights, I feel her backers could go a lot further to understand the human rights atrocities in Burma which are only one facet of the reasons for the international sanctions they are offended by.

    No matter how I look at it, it appears she has received, and that she and her friends expect her to be allowed to continue receive special treatment because she is the daughter of a Burmese general.

    Comment by Garrett — July 16, 2010 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Tettoe Aung,
    Thanks for your response.
    The girl was not sponsored by her parents or anyone linked to military, and so was not benefiting from the military. Yes, her father is a military member but it is not by HER choice. She is not a supporter of the junta and has not commited any crimes even if her father may have. She came to Australia to get an education and live here, like most other students, and so should be treated just like everyone else. This is my understanding of ‘fair go’.

    Her father’s title is indeed empty and he is not the decision maker. Nevertheless, even if the sanctions against her father are justified, they should not automatically also apply to the family members. That is like convicting you for a crime your relative has commited. Is this logical to you?

    You said “Her father doesn’t want ordinary people to enjoy democratic freedom but his daughter should; ordinary people can’t have decent education but she should”. Again, you are holding the girl responsible for any crimes her father may have committed.

    What is important here is to treat her as an individual and not an extension of her father, and judge her based on her actions. Does her family define her? If she is a supporter of the junta then sanctions against her are justified, but not just because her father is a part of the junta.

    Many people have taken this an opportunity to vent their anger against the junta and the girl has become an easy target. I am not being insensitive to the plight of millions of oppressed Burmese, but punishing another innocent does not help anyone.

    Comment by R — July 17, 2010 @ 12:06 am | Reply

    • Dear R,

      I hope you know the expression, “guilty by association”? Well the girl may not have a choice who her father is but at the same time she can’t help benefiting from being his daughter, can she? Like you said her father may or may not have sponsor her to study in Australia but the fact is unlike Australia young people in Burma do not have to means to earn that amount of money to pay for their education (unless she uses the one asset she has as gainful employment). You have to take in to context what we’re saying here.

      You haven’t give me the answer whether her father’s title is empty that they have to live on food parcels or handout like those he and his regime have driven out to refugee camps. I don’t think you have ever lived in a military household. Do you know, despite endowed with all those natural resources, the country is poor? It’s because majority of the public funds are being used by the regime and it cronies as if it’s their inheritance.

      You are not insensitive but you’re just ignorant. People in Burma, unlike in Australia, function as family and not as individuals. Family connection means privilege for members of the family and that includes daughters as well. You are who you are because of you family. You’re like a fish asking the tortoise whether ‘walking on land’ is like ‘swimming’. The fish has never been on land and you’ve never lived in a military household, so how can you understand? If I must quote Jesus on this, “Lord please forgive R for he did not understand what he was saying”. Amen.

      Comment by Tettoe Aung — July 17, 2010 @ 12:33 am | Reply

      • Dear Tettoe Aung,

        You are very fond of idioms, but you do not bother to think before quoting them. How can a person be “guilty by association”, if they have no say in the ‘association’? No person is voluntarily related to his/her father. Did the girl choose to be born in that family?

        You said, “You are who you are because of your family.”
        Your argument is basically that if a person’s relative is bad then so is he/she and the rest of his family. Does this not sound absurd to you? If your uncle is a murderer then so are you? Or your father is a thief then so are you?

        A person is not simply a product of his/her family. You should judge a person based on his/her actions. However, in your eyes, the girl is guilty just by being born in that family and you are clearly unwilling to consider another point of view.

        “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. I am neither insensitive nor ignorant of the crimes committed against the millions of Burmese, but unlike you I am not willing to punish an innocent just because of crimes their relatives may have committed.

        Comment by R — July 17, 2010 @ 5:23 am

  5. There you go again R. Communications and language is not just words. Devoid of cultural context then it doesn’t make sense. In Burmese culture you can’t disown your parents but they can. Her lawyer has no cultural sensitivity nor she has valid grounds to submit. Maybe not in this age when decent upbringing and parentage are factors when one considers marriage. We call such and age when “the dog pissed on the golden tray”.

    If my father is a thief, I am a thief’s son but I may not be a thief. If her father is a general but he’s a thief because he cannot possibly account for salary he gets then she’s a daughter of a thief. In Mangala Sutta one of the thirty blessings is that, “Not to associate with fools but to associate with the wise, and to honour those worth of honour this is the supreme blessing.”

    You haven’t answer my question whether you have intimate knowledge of military household? If you haven’t then it will be a waste of time for both of us. We should have better things than arguing for the sake of arguing. Read the court documents and you will know why she’s been deported. I won’t be losing sleep if she’s not been deported neither I’ll be taking joy out of this affair. Let me remind you, if she were Burmese then she should know that ‘looking after one’s father and mother’ is also one of the blessings. Disowning one’s father is not an ideal way to obtain one’s education, isn’t it?

    Comment by Tettoe Aung — July 17, 2010 @ 5:57 am | Reply

    • Dear Tettoe Aung,

      I will try to simplify it for you:

      Firstly, the girl did not choose to be born in that family, and so she should not be treated as a criminal just because of her relations. ‘You can choose your friends, not your relatives.’

      Secondly, I would not hold it against the girl if she was not estranged from her parents and was still close to them. A person cannot ditch their own parents even if they don’t hold to the same beliefs. By your own admission, this is exactly part of Burmese culture.

      Also, the girl was deported because the sanction list included her name as she was an immediate family member of a brigadier-general. She tried to argue that she is an independent person, not being sponsored by her parents or anyone linked to the military, and should be treated as an individual and not punsihed for crimes she did not commit.

      Lastly, I am not from a military household, but just as I don’t need to murder someone to know that it is wrong, I don’t need to be opressed to empathise with the millions of oppressed Burmese.

      Comment by R — July 17, 2010 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

      • No further comments R. Wasted enough time already. No wonder they say, “Silence is golden”.

        Comment by Tettoe Aung — July 17, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

      • Good…that’s the best contribution you can make.

        Comment by R — July 18, 2010 @ 9:12 am

  6. R wrote: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. I am neither insensitive nor ignorant of the crimes committed against the millions of Burmese, but unlike you I am not willing to punish an innocent just because of crimes their relatives may have committed.”

    This is an extremely insensitive and thoughtless misinterpretation of Gandhi’s comment regarding violent revenge, based on your ignorance of why there are sanctions against the family members of the SPDC regime members.

    What the Australian government has done is not revenge, it is an act of nonviolent protest Gandhi would have approved of in which the government of Australia is simply keeping its word which it has given to the millions of oppressed Burmese people that the family members of their oppressors will not be welcome in Australia.

    Perhaps now that Zin Mon Aye has exhausted her legal appeals, you can stop hammering on the bent nail with the handle of your screwdriver, and turn your efforts towards ending the suffering of her 60 million countrymen whom she planned on leaving behind for her new life in Australia, before Karma caught up with her that is.
    Free Burma, and you will free Zin Mon Aye.

    Comment by Garrett — July 17, 2010 @ 7:22 am | Reply

    • Dear Tettoe Aung,
      Your wisdom was not wasted, everyone else learned a lot from your comments, and your point of view was knowledgeable and well spoken.

      Some people like R try to over-simplify matters to fit their neat and tidy world. They don’t understand what life and death are like in a country like Burma, they use words that they don’t understand, and they try to defend concepts which are indefensible.

      Thank You for your comments
      Garrett

      Comment by Garrett — July 18, 2010 @ 12:30 am | Reply

      • Thanks for you compliments Garrett. Things in Burma and on Burma cannot always be perceived simply. They defy logic at times. R may feel sorry for the girl but did anyone feel sorry for the month-old baby when the regime hold the baby to ransom while the mother was on the run. In the end she turned herself in still now locked in prison. They defy all humanitarian laws.

        I used to live amongst them. It’s like living under the system of apartheid South Africa. I would not deny that I benefited in some ways by being related to them. I made the decision to cut my ties with the previous military regime because I could not be part of the injustices.

        I do sympathize the girls situation but it’s not just her but many innocent people are caught in it because of their cruelty to their own people.

        Comment by Tettoe Aung — August 3, 2010 @ 12:05 am

      • ….and some people cannot even overcome their baser instincts

        Comment by Joe — August 4, 2010 @ 7:56 am

      • Tettoe Aung,
        You should give yourself a pat on the back. Another innocent was punished for no fault of her own. You can now return to pretending that you are not a hypocrite who also had some link to military / originated from a military family and are better than the rest because you got away with it. But the gall of someone else to try to leave Burma and try to sever ties to their military family. The justice was served indeed.

        Garrett,
        Sorry if ‘don’t punish innocents’ was over-simplified for you and just didn’t fit in your miserable little world.

        Comment by R — August 6, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

      • R wrote: “But the gall of someone else to try to leave Burma and try to sever ties to their military family. The justice was served indeed.”

        Dear R,
        I have a hard time understanding your villification of the Australian government, and those who support the government’s actions in the deportation of Zin Mon Aye.

        Had Zin Mon Aye applied for political asylum at the time she arrived in Australia in order to effectively “sever ties to HER military family”, that act would have likely been seen as a heroic act of defiance against the Burmese military dictatorship which would have gained her the support of the Australian government, in which case her name would never have been added to the sanctions list of offspring of military families attempting to receive educations and/or permanent residence in Australia.

        I’m not going to bother speculating why she did not apply for political asylum, if as you say she was attempting to “leave Burma” permanently, because I have my doubts that she left Burma with the intention of staying permanently in Australia.

        As for not punishing innocents, I doubt you have any concept what that statement means as regards the suffering of the Burmese people.

        To me Zin Mon Aye is no different than 60 million other innocent Burmese who need to be freed from military tyranny, while to you, she is special and should not be punished because she is the daughter of a Burmese General, and everyone else in Burma are irrelevant to her case.

        Sorry mate, it still adds up to you saying she deserves special treatment because she is the daughter of a General.
        You need to open your eyes to the bigger picture.
        Free Burma, and you will free Zin Mon Aye.

        Comment by Garrett — August 6, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

  7. “Also, the girl was deported because the sanction list included her name as she was an immediate family member of a brigadier-general.”
    I think this reason is good enough to be deported.
    What evidence did she give for her argument about being an independent person? If she doesn’t have any solid evidence, it is fair.
    In this case, we should not forget how these sanctioned individuals channel their wealth through family members and friends. And as far as I concern, this list is quite accurate and accountable. I have seen two children of two different generals who are really independent individuals and both of them are not in the list. And living abroad freely.
    So, the best advice for her is to try to exclude her name from the list first.

    Comment by wine — July 27, 2010 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  8. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

    This edict was not about vindictive violence, but reciprocity in a time when people were being executed for bringing the wrong votive offering. It was not “do X to our or someone else’s children, and we’ll do X to yours”; it was “if you are implicated in doing X to our or someone else’s children, then we’ll do X to *you*.

    I discussed about the new election and the SPDC’s touting for business with a throwaway remark about Miss Zin which reflected by views on Julia Gillard’s Welshness more than anything else. A friend of Miss Zin responded.

    I replied:

    As I understand it, Brigadier-General Zin is the commander at Mingalardon with an associated senior position in the SPDC. Miss Zin and her brother’s lot is, indeed, highly unfair to them as individuals, but they remain in considerably better positions than many (and definitely those who’ve fallen foul of the Burmese military which their father represents).

    That said, I am highly skeptical of all State-level embargo/boycotts even if, as with the superstitious louts of the SPDC, the targets are in complete control of entry/exit and commerce for the country in question.

    Yet, it is established for figures in repressive regiemes to send their children to Western universities (whilst declining to nurture in a domestic education system). Plus, exports from Burma are ill-defined with no intellectual capital. Sweatshops, arts and crafts, petrochemicals and timber and minerals… what else?

    Kim Jong-eun, for instance, lived it up at Bern University.

    And, yes, it is double-standards where some Australia-linked mining companies are involved in Burma.

    I daresay NGOs and yer man on the street who’re likely to approve of this also have soft spots for Timor-Leste; which, as I was dismayed to see, ain’t above snuggling-up with the SPDC to get a seat at ASEAN. Honestly, it would be like taking a Morris Minor to a banger derby.

    Comment by Alec — August 25, 2010 @ 7:54 am | Reply

  9. The best news I’ve heard for years, It won’t do any good for the plight of the poor Burmese, but at least it’s better than nothing, which is what most of the western governments are doing.

    Comment by Tony — September 16, 2011 @ 6:45 am | Reply


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