A quick post to mark the fantastic news about the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. As the former (and likely future) leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma/Myanmar, she has been the face of democracy and the fight for freedom there over a period of decades.
She was first detained in 1989 although there have been periods of release since then, they have been brief and restricted. Since then her husband has died and she has not seen her sons for 10 years. It is reported in the Guardian that her youngest son was just this week refused a visa to travel to Burma from his base in Bangkok. She has grandchildren she has never seen. That’s the human level of sacrifice she has been subject to for her cause.
On a national and international level, she has become a symbol for peaceful demonstration but it is worth remembering the thousands of other political prisoners in Burma and the precarious situation that she has been released into with Burma still governed by a military dictatorship.
We owe it to her and the people of Burma to temper our celebration with a close eye on the current situation and push both for other prisoners and also any changes in the terms of her release. Indeed, the Observer’s leader explains that in contrast with Mandela’s release, she is freed into a state that is determined to continue with it’s grip on power and does not, as South Africa did, accept the death or dying of the regime that caused the imprisonment.
On a personal level, of all the causes that my father passionately held on to, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi was one of his most determined. Her imprisonment and situation was one that troubled and angered him immensely. He joined campaigns and marches for as long as he could.
I couldn’t help but think of him over this weekend and think how happy it would have made him to have seen her waving from outside her home to a crowd. But we need to remember this was a freedom granted at the whim of a military dictatorship not through international pressure and campaigns so we can’t take our eyes of the situation. I can almost hear him whispering in my ear to urge us not to give up the fight for freedom and democracy in Burma.
- Aung San Suu Kyi: The generals think they have sidelined her. They are wrong (guardian.co.uk)
- Aung San Suu Kyi release: live coverage (guardian.co.uk)
- Crowds In Myanmar Rejoice At Suu Kyi’s Release (npr.org)