Myanmar's pro-democracy activist inspired by Hiroshima's recovery

May 01, 2013

By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer

HIROSHIMA--One of Myanmar's leading human rights activists who recently visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum for the first time said her nation can learn a lot from Hiroshima's recovery from the atomic bombing as it moves toward democracy.

Ma Thida, 46, who currently works as a magazine editor, is best known for her books and articles.

An influential pro-democracy leader in her country, Ma Thida was once a prisoner of conscience under Myanmar's authoritarian military rule.

“I want to convey to my country the experiences of Hiroshima, which has achieved great development despite that it was placed under harsh circumstances,” she said on April 12.

At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Ma Thida spoke with Keijiro Matsushima, an 84-year-old atomic bomb survivor.

“Were there any secrets to achieve the recovery of Hiroshima?” Ma Thida asked him.

“There are no secrets," replied Matsushima, who was 16 years old when an atomic bomb was dropped on the city in the closing days of World War II. "A-bomb survivors like me continued to make efforts, believing in a better tomorrow. The result of our efforts is the recovery (of Hiroshima).”

Ma Thida, also a surgeon, took part in the establishment of the National League for Democracy in 1988 along with Aung San Suu Kyi. However, their movement was severely oppressed by the government.

In 1993, Ma Thida was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the grounds that she had been engaged in illegal activities. She was released after serving five and a half years.

Ma Thida said she is concerned over the intensifying conflicts between ethnic and religious groups in Myanmar, despite the nation making economic progress.

“There are many things we can learn from the people of Hiroshima, who chose the road of making efforts in order not to repeat the same agonies,” she said.

By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer
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Ma Thida, left, meets with Keijiro Matsushima at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on April 12. (Kenta Sujino)

Ma Thida, left, meets with Keijiro Matsushima at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on April 12. (Kenta Sujino)

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  • Ma Thida, left, meets with Keijiro Matsushima at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on April 12. (Kenta Sujino)

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