(Interview) – The Burmese comedian Zarganar; director and actor Zin Wine; directors Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and Kyi Phyu Shin and former intelligence chief and prime minister Khin Nyunt met for a conversation on January 15. On Monday, Zarganar, along with Zin Wine, met with San Pwint, a former major in Military Intelligence who arrested Zarganar two times. Khin Nyunt was ousted and arrested in 2004 and sentenced to 44 years in prison in 2005 on various corruption charges. San Pwint was arrested and charged in the same case. Mizzima correspondent Ko Wild talked with Zarganar about his visit with Khin Nyunt at his home.
Question: Why did you ask to meet with Khin Nyunt?
Answer: I met with him on January 15 at 5 p.m. at his home.
Since I was released from prison, I urged the president to release [former] General Khin Nyunt too.
So, when he was released from prison, he sent his niece to give me a message that he would like to say thanks to me for boldly urging [the president] to release him. His niece told me that he wanted to say thanks to me personally. He is elderly, so I told his niece I would go to him.
At that time, I was in Phyu. When I was arrived back in Rangoon, Zin Wine, and our colleagues and I had a meeting, and they said they also would like to meet with Khin Nyunt. That’s why they accompanied me.
Q: Is it unusual that Khin Nyunt spoke to the media as soon as he was released and then he met with you?
A: It’s not unusual. In fact, [former] General Khin Nyunt and I had never met. When he had considerable power, I was not included in the movie people who received support and help from him. Nearly all of the movie people obtained phone permits, land and car permits from him. I was not included in those movie people. In fact, when he was in power, I was arrested. I was arrested two times during his tenure.
Not only him. San Pwint from intelligence agency 6, who arrested me personally, was also released from prison. I went to him and greeted him. Now I have nothing to do with [personal grudges]. I don’t hold grudges. San Pwint arrested me personally two times. And Major Khin Maung Htwe. I greeted them, too.
Because they also have done things for the country in the past. I don’t hold any personal grudges against people who did bad things to us. Now, they’re released from prison. So, I greeted them. I just welcomed another person who was released from prison recently. I have no other intentions. Anyway, some people may think that why I can forgive them. In fact, I was the person who suffered. Even I can forgive.
Before that, I had never met with Khin Nyunt. He told me that when he had authority, he and I had never met and at this time there is nothing he can help me with. I replied to him that’s no problem. Those things [give-and-take] are not in my mind.
Q: When did you meet with San Pwint?
A: Yesterday morning.
Q: Some people criticized you on the grounds that you met with Khin Nyunt, and he had many pro-democracy activists arrested.
A: Those arguments tend to be never-ending. Ask the critics whether Thein Sein and Shwe Mann had the power of arrest at that time. Now, those people and Aung San Suu Kyi have shaken each others’ hands. So, why should I hold personal grudges? I think those [critics’] comments are meaningless. I don’t want to explain them. We who have personally suffered and were tortured don’t say anything, but people who suffered nothing are saying [angry] words.
Q: When you met with Khin Nyunt, what did you say?
A: We talked about films. He said that he read about our ‘Freedom Film Festival’ in journals, and he was pleased. He told me that he would like to watch those movies. This was the first subject we talked about. The second subject is that he was placed under house arrest for seven years as if he was in a prison. He said he felt very uncomfortable. In those days, he practiced meditation and now there is nothing [no personal grudges] in his mind. He said he did his past actions in accord with his duties, and he did not hold personal grudges.
Q: He told the media that he would not be involved in politics. Did he say that he was interested in social affairs and peace making?
A: We did not talk about it. But regarding peace, he personally met with General Mya [former Karen National Union chairman Saw Bo Mya] when he was alive. At that time, although they could take some steps, agreement was not reached. He [Khin Nyunt] and San Pwint led peace talks at that time. He says he has those videos. The negotiation was cancelled after they [Khin Nyunt and his colleagues] were arrested. There are some things they did. He and San Pwint also went to Khun Sa [a drug lord] and talked to him. We talked about it. I asked him what I would like to know. He said their peace talk with Khun Sa was successful.
Q: Did you see his two sons?
A: Yes, I saw both Ye Naing Win and Zaw Naing Oo.
Q: When you went to San Pwint, who accompanied you? What did you talk about?
A: Zin Wine and I went. Just for a short time. We greeted him. Because when Zin Wine and I were arrested and detained in Intelligence Unit No. 6, the official who personally arrested us was Major San Pwint. That’s why we went to him to greet him. But, we could not chat too much because there were many people.
Q: When were you arrested and detained by Intelligence No. 6?
A: Shortly after the ‘8888’ uprising. Zin Wine and I were the first ones who were arrested in Burma.