Interview with Blogger San Oo Aung @ Dr Zafar Shah Interview with Blogger San Oo Aung @ Dr Zafar Shah

Just call me San Oo Aung @ Dr Zafar Shah. I blogged here. I was born in Yangon (Rangoon) Burma, Myanmar, graduated as a Medical Doctor from Rangoon Medical University I. I left Burma with the heavy heart in 1990 after military brutally suppressed the 8888 people’s revolution. As I already got the job offer with the USM, Government Medical University in the east coast of Malaysia, I have no much difficulty to struggle but need to do locums or moonlightings at private clinics at my free time to cover the education fees of my five children.

Since arrived Malaysia, I started to do extensive research about the history of Burmese Muslims. I have written to various newspapers and magazines with various pseudonyms on this topic and Burmese politics. Most of them are published as letters to editors in the Newsweek, Far Eastern Economic Review, Mizzima,Irrawaddy, News Strait Times, Berita Harian ( Malay newspaper interviewed me without revealing my identity ) The Star, Malaysiakini on line, Malaysia-today etc.  Muslim Welfare Organization, PERKIM/RISEAP  REGIONAL ISLAMIC council for  South East Asia and Pacific, journal once even published three of my articles with different pseudonyms in one issue.

I wish to request all of you and all the readers to understand our Burmese/Myanmar citizen’s need for anonymous status because all the bloggers are seen as the enemy of the military rulers and are at risk of few decades of prison sentences and the fate of political bloggers could not be imagined.

Although there are some online political Burmese magazines in English, I think I am one of the only two rare political bloggers who actively write in English. Most of the Burmese bloggers write in Burmese. Moreover, I am the only blogger from Malaysia who used to touch not only on Burmese politics but also on Islam and frequently writing about any grievances suffered by Burmese migrants, legal or illegal, in Malaysia. You will be surprised that this Muslim country is actively supporting the Myanmar military for its economic interests there and the Myanmar Embassy even bragged that they got information and alert about the Myanmar bloggers from the host intelligence agencies!

Burma Digest on line magazine started to publish my first article on the February 12th Burma National day’s special issue. This article:

“A Valentine Music DVD with Love for Dear Nan Sai” . This magazine publishes weekly by a group of Burmese dissident doctors and Ethnic Minorities.

That Burmese National day was for the commemorating of the forming the foundation of our Union of Burma, the day we signed our nation’s matrimonial agreement at Panglon, and that is also the Shan State National day. And coincidently that is two day’s before the Valentine day, the day of lovers. And I wrote the letter as if to my estranged wife (Shan girl) because her father announced our divorce declaration that is the Shan leaders announcement of the separation from Burma/Myanmar and the forming of an Independent Shan Country. I wrote that letter based on the past and present history of Burma, copying the idea from Nehru’s letters to his daughter.

There were a lot of admirers and readers first and the Editor in chief, Dr Tayza wrote and encouraged me a lot to continue writing and continue to publish them in a series as_

“Compassionate letters to dear Nan” series, “Letter 1: A Valentine Present with Love”, to letter number twelve. The editor asked to give different names so that he could publish more than few articles in every week so my articles were published with about a dozen of different pseudonyms.

Later he appointed me as a Think Tank, translation-editor, editor and at last to the senior editor at Burma Digest.

As Burma Digest was a political on line magazine and should remain secular, I refrained from writing Islamic articles. My friends advised me that there were no articles about Burmese Muslims in Wikipedia free encyclopedia; I started to contribute Islam in Myanmar and other articles. Please read at _User:Darz kkg 

Later because of invitation from Muslimwiki, I posted, actually copied my old Islam articles there.

On the Eid day of 2007, my friend blooger Sit Mone  taught me to start my own blog. I took the name from General Aung San, our  Independence hero, the father of the present NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu  Kyi, who won the last election but the military refused her the chance to form a government..

At first I could write a lot of articles in English, some translated into Burmese with the help of two of my friends but nowadays I am so busy with my professional work, just scan and republished news and articles with some comments only.

2. Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

My English is not very good. I emphasized on more to present the facts and probe for the new idea or new point of view to present to my readers. In addition, I have no much time to improve my English by reading good books, as I am very busy nowadays. As my age have just passed fifty, naturally the health starts to deteriorate, yes doctors are not gods, and we suffer from various diseases and would definitely die one day. Therefore, I need to reserve some time for exercise. Nowadays I cannot write much except for searching interesting news and articles for my readers with some comments only.

Most of the people, even Muslim brothers and sisters around the world do not know or understand about the sufferings of all the Burmese people under the brutal military régime.   In addition,  I also wish to present our Burmese Muslims’ point of view and our grievances to our fellow Burmese democratic activists.

3. I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

My tryst with Burma Digest and Wikipedia (User:Darz kkg ) are my most pleasant and memorable experiences in my blogging life. I used to write at least two to three articles each week on the theme given by the chief editor and the other various topics that I fascinated.

I got the unforgettable experiences of arranging and interviewing the few top political leaders in Malaysia about Burma politics_

1.   Speaking with Dr. Maharthir, former Malaysia PM (interview in English)[158]

2. Speaking with Mrs Anwar, Dr. Wan Azizah (interview in English)[161]

3.  Interview with Global Peace Malaysia (interview in English)[162]

 

What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

As I have mentioned above for the sake of security not only for ourselves but for our families here and near relatives back home in Burma, we need to keep our identity in top secret condition and so I never reply any e-mails even from the local and international reporters, BBC, Malaysian news portals.

You are the first person I replied and agreed for the interview. If you really know about our military governments, you could understand that I am not a paranoid person.

Exception is my closed friend blooger Sit Mone .

5. What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

I read about how United States President-elect Barack Obama was successful in reaching young voters through his_

1.   website,

2. video-sharing site

3.  YouTube

4. and social networks

5.  Facebook

6. and Twitter

that the 2008 US presidential elections have come to be dubbed the ”Facebook Elections”.

6. Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

Yes.

7. What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

I am one of the very rare Burmese Muslim political blogger in English. Moreover, I am the only Burmese blogger critical of the host government and ASEAN.

I am also writing articles criticizing OIC and world Islamic leaders because of their empty rhetoric of shouting loud against Israel and USA, support Palestine, Iraq etc but ignored the plight of downtrodden Muslim minorities. In addition, some of them paid the intermediaries;  agents or lobbyists to just get appointment to see the US presidents.

8. If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

I always try to prepare very early for every thing and hate to procrastinate any thing.

9. What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

Happiest when Burma’s first dictator General Ne Win relinquished power and when ex-Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt, notorious military intelligent chief, who was believed to be the mastermind behind the anti-Muslim riots in Myanmar was arrested.

Gloomiest when denied the election winner, opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to take over and performed the palace coup.  In addition,  she was almost killed in Depayin massacre, since then, she was under house arrest.

10. If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

1.   To perform Hajj  trip to Mecca.

2. To  Afghanistan,  Pakistan, Kashmir, India and Yunnan to trace my ancestors.

3.  To go back to hometown Burma.

11. What is your favorite book and why?

One of my favourite book is ANIMAL FARM” by George Orwell. This is one of the educating books with a hidden political message. This ANIMAL FARM somehow had a special place in my heart as a classics/satire reflecting our country, Burma. I have attempted the adapting and merging of the Animal Farm story into the Burma/Myanmar scene.

Burmese version of animal farm

12. What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?

I usually try to determine the Politeness, sincerity and trustworthiness by looking at the behavior and words but not always successful.

13. Is there anyone from your past that once told you that you couldn’t write?

My wife. Because she is too scared that military government would found out my identity and punish all. May be she was telling that I should not write.

14. How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

May be putting the advertisement. I had seen on Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi’s blog. But now he joined the opposition, entered election and seem to be landed with a lucurative job.  I heard about some professionals journalists started the political bloggers  and later hired by rich politicians. And some dissidents started the blogs and got the funds from the supporters.

For me, I am not interested to earn any thing from blogging. Shukor Alhamdulillah, Allah had given enough to me through my General Practice clinic.

15. Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

May be or may be not. However, I personally do not get enough time, so I need to blog between my consultations and at night sometimes even sacrificing my exercise time and sleeping hours. I wish I could get more time for blogging.

16. What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

In the Internet chat-rooms I had seen some extremists who are rude and using vulgar words. So, I never write or participate there. We could promote peace, tolerance, mutual understanding to stop the hatred and agree to disagree, promote democracy, good governance, transparency, to free corruption etc….

17. Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

1. Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia today

2. Marina Mahathir’s Rantings

3. Lim Kit Siang – Lim Kit Siang for Malaysia

4. Dr  Azly Rahman 

5. Malik Imtiaz – Disquiet

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad – chedet.com, is unique as it attracts millions of viewers every day.

18. Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

My Islam in Burma, Panthay Burmese Chinese Muslims, Burmese Indians (including Burmese Indian (including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka ) Muslims, were blog-rolled, copied or reprinted by many Burmese Muslim bloggers. I strongly believe that those articles had accomplished my duty as a Burmese Muslim.

0.Islam in Myanmar

0.History of arrival of Islam in Burma/Myanmar

0.Famous Burmese Muslims

0.Persecution of Muslims in Myanmar

0.Panthay

0.Burmese Malay Muslims

0.Burmese Indians

0.Indians in Burmese History

0.Origin of Burmese Indians

My version and rewriting of the history of the Shan national ethnic minority,

Renascences of the Golden days of the Great Shan Empire, is viewed every day by the readers.

19. What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

My ancestors up to my parents could speak Urdu and as we are Sunni, Hannafi and our Burmese Muslims’ culture are related to Pakistanis, I am always fascinated with all things Pakistani. However, don’t angry with me, Bollywood movies are better than few of Pakistani movies I had seen.

20. Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

Raja Petra Kamarudin’s bravery and skill in writing.

21. What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

Generally speaking Democracy, Human Rights, good Governance, Rule of Law are more respected in developed countries and as earning power is greater people could take more vacations. But moral values, religious practice and respect of elders or taking care of old parents are declining in developed countries.

I may not be wrong if I try to conclude that the values mentioned above are generally practiced in roughly reversed order in the developing countries. Actually, we need a balanced progress in all the good values. However, most of the authoritarian dictators even brainwashed or used to deny their citizens enjoying those good values by using the lame excuses of Asia values are different from Western values.

They denied us from tasting the fruits of true Democracy, Human Rights, good Governance, Rule of Law etc by smoke-shielding with their guided or disciplined democracy and threatened us with the bogyman; danger of re-colonization, sexual promiscuity, declining moral values etc.

22. What is the future of blogging?

Not sure. I hope it may progress but could not say for sure, as technology is advancing rapidly.

23. You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

No effect at all. Actually, I believe the saying that “the change of work is rest”, so I feel satisfied and relaxed by blogging activities sandwiched between my professional consultation of patients.

24. What are your future plans?

To try my best to continue blogging and campaigning for the second Independence of Burma and to get democracy, equal rights esp. for the downtrodden Burmese Muslims.

25. Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

To understand the sufferings of Burmese Muslims in-side Myanmar and the neglect of the Muslim countries around the world.

It is shameful that even at the United Nations Security Council and United Nations General Assembly, many Muslim countries are supporting and protecting the illegal dictator Myanmar Military regime who is committing atrocities on all the citizens but more on Myanmar Muslims.

I hope the readers and The Pakistani Spectator could lobby their governments to stop supporting the tyrant Myanmar SPDC military rulers.

I think some of them just support the enemy of their enemy USA, EU and the western democratic countries.

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