Tuesday, 30 November 2010



UN envoy: Myanmar must address criticism of polls

YANGON, Myanmar -A U.N. special envoy to Myanmar said Sunday he told its military government that it must address concerns about recent elections, which critics charge were rigged.
Vijay Nambiar, who is also chief of staff for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, spoke Sunday to reporters as he was ending a two-day visit.
He said he listened to as many parties as possible about their "hopes, expectations and concerns at this critical juncture" following the Nov. 7 polls and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
He said concerns about the elections have to be addressed "as transparently as possible."
"This is important for laying the foundation of a credible transition" to democratic rule, he said.
Nambiar said he also called for the release of political prisoners, estimated by human rights groups to number more than 2,200.
Nambiar met Saturday with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, who said the talks were "very valuable" but that they might need "many and frequent meetings to sort out all the problems we are facing."
Since her release Nov. 13 from more than seven years of continuous house arrest, Suu Kyi has been busy talking with diplomats, politicians and international agencies.
The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962 and the Nov. 7 elections were widely criticized as being unfair, with vote-rigging to favor the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Still incomplete results give the party a sweeping majority in both houses of parliament.
The official Union Election Commission has repeatedly corrected announced results that showed turnout exceeding 100 percent in some constituencies and declared two pro-junta candidates winners in constituencies in Kachin State where voting had been canceled.
The results ensure the military retains power behind the scenes as well as overtly in parliament, which will become a powerful body. The president, who does not need to be an elected lawmaker, will appoint Cabinet ministers and can call the military to take over in case of a national emergency.
The previously elections in 1990 were overwhelmingly won by the Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, but the military did not recognize the results.
Nambiar, who also met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win, election commissioners and representatives of some ethnic political parties, said the U.N.'s role in promoting political reconciliation was appreciated by all sides.
"The United Nations looks forward to continuing this dialogue through direct engagement with all parties to help advance national reconciliation and the establishment of a democratic and civilian government in a way that contributes to Myanmar's stability and development," he said.
It was Nambiar's first visit to Myanmar since he took over the position of special envoy from Ibrahim Gambari, who last traveled to Myanmar in June 2009.
A long line of U.N. officials, including Ban, has attempted to broker talks between the opposing sides, but have failed to bring them together despite numerous claims of breakthroughs.

Myo Thein
Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)
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Saturday, 27 November 2010

Diplomats: UN official to meet Burma’s Suu Kyi

Nov 26th, 2010

YANGON, Myanmar -A senior United Nations official will visit Myanmar this weekend to meet the country’s military rulers and recently released democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, diplomats said Friday.
Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was probably coming to “feel the temperature” in the country following the first election in 20 years and Suu Kyi’s release from more than seven years of house arrest, one diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic protocol.
Nambiar is due to arrive in the main city Yangon on Saturday, they said.
Since her release Nov. 7, Suu Kyi has been busy meeting diplomats, U.N. representatives, politicians and international agencies.
The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made it clear she plans to pursue her goal of a democratic Myanmar but has been careful not to verbally challenge the junta.
The ruling generals and their longtime archrival have had no contact since Suu Kyi was freed from detention. She has called for face-to-face reconciliation talks with junta leader Gen. Than Shwe.
A long line of U.N. officials, including Ban, have attempted to broker talks between the opposing sides, but despite numerous claims of “breakthroughs” have failed to bring them together.
Suu Kyi’s political party swept the 1990 elections but was never allowed to take power. A pro-regime party overwhelmingly won this month’s elections amid widespread claims the balloting was rigged.
The junta regards Suu Kyi and her nonviolent struggle for democracy as a threat to its power. She has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.


Friday, 26 November 2010

West Waits for Suu Kyi Sanctions Signal

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BANGKOK — American and European business organizations are reconsidering their position on Burma following the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi, as concern grows among them that economic sanctions have benefited Asian countries prepared to turn a blind eye to junta human rights abuses.

The United States Chamber of Commerce says it is waiting for a “signal” from Suu Kyi on the issue, and the European Union Business Council called for dialogue.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council this week met to discuss policy on Burma following the elections and Suu Kyi’s release.
The council is now “assessing the possibilities for engagement” with Burma’s leadership, but also calls for “all the remaining political detainees to be released without delay,” said Council President Catherine Ashton in a November 22 statement.

Tami Overby, vice president for Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s fairly clear that the sanctions haven’t brought political change, but instead have outsourced jobs from US firms to their competitors in other countries that trade freely with Myanmar [Burma].”

Overby told the Wall Street Journal: “American firms would urge Congress and the [Obama] administration to consider easing the sanctions if Ms. Suu Kyi and the opposition signal an openness to revisions in the sanctions regime,”

While Western firms have stood on the sidelines, China, Thailand, India and Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries have not only engaged with the Burma military regime but also invested heavily, especially in primary industries and natural resources such a gas.

Proven gas reserves in Burma have climbed to 570 billion cubic meters over the last 10 years, according to a BP Statistical Review. Thailand and, more recently, China, have been the chief beneficiaries.

Chinese companies alone invested US $8 billion in Burma in the first six months of this year, mostly in gas, oil and hydroelectric development projects, according to a Reuters report based on official Burmese statistics.

“Some Western companies certainly are keen to move into Burma’s energy sector, I think the more so since the announcement last week that a Chinese business [Sinopec] has just discovered what appears to be another sizable gas reservoir,” a commercial diplomat with a Western embassy in Bangkok told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“I think, however, that non-Asian governments will continue to hold back for the time being on any revision of sanctions policies, until they get some endorsement from Aung San Suu Kyi on the issue,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicate subject.

French energy giant Total and the US concern Chevron are still operating in Burma’s lucrative offshore gas fields, excused from sanctions penalties by their respective governments under a so-called “grandfathered” deal which precluded firms already in Burma when economic sanctions were first imposed.

Chevron declined to comment on the latest political developments in Burma and its future business plans there.

“It is in the interest of the EU to re-engage Myanmar [Burma] as it is increasingly evident that the vacuum created by the withdrawal of Western investment is being filled by China, India and Thailand,” said Thaung Tun, writing for the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“If the EU does not change course, it will not only miss the opportunity to pursue commercial interests but have no leverage to affect positive change in Myanmar. The EU should take advantage of its trade review to offer to reinstate the Generalized System of Preferences privileges to Myanmar. The initiative would be regarded as a signal that Europe stands ready to resume mutually beneficial relations,” said Thaung Tun.

Suu Kyi has already hinted that she would be in favor of some improvement in European tourism to Burma. In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel this week, she noted that the EU is examining its policy on tourism.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with the European Union about this, but it is essential that people see what is actually happening in this country,” the magazine quoted her as saying.

In the big commercial picture, Asian countries continue to lead the way. China, Japan and South Korea have expressed interest in participating in the Thai-led multibillion dollar plan to build a port and petrochemical industrial zone at Tavoy (Dawei) on Burma’s southeast Andaman Sea coast.


Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese Sanctions

November 13, 2010, 9:18 am

Congratulations to Aung San Suu Kyi on her release from house arrest. She should be president, but at least she’s finally free. And her release is also a reminder that even the odious Burmese regime, one of the most oppressive in the world today, cares a little bit about its international image.

Pressure would also be much more effective if China weren’t protecting and supporting the Burmese junta, partly so that it can gain an outlet to the Indian Ocean and access to listening posts and quasi-bases there to squeeze India. China’s role in Burma has been disgraceful, and one lesson is the need to put pressure not only on the Burmese regime but also on Beijing.

But it’s also time to rethink strategy. Suu Kyi is a brilliant mind and great leader, and I hope she’ll rethink her support for sanctions on Burma. Within the Burmese exile community (nobody except the regime uses the word Myanmar), there’s a split on this issue, although most line up with Suu Kyi in favor of sanctions.

I think that’s a mistake. Maybe sanctions were a worthwhile experiment at the beginning, but they have failed. They haven’t caused the collapse of the regime, which seems as strong as ever. But the sanctions have increased the suffering of the Burmese people. Tens of thousands of young Burmese women have lost their jobs in the garment industry, and some of them probably ended up being trafficked to brothels in Thailand and Malaysia.

More broadly, one of the lessons of history is that broad sanctions rarely work. They make regimes more isolated and give them excuses for their economic failings, when in fact it’s usually international contact that brings about change. Our sanctions on Cuba, for example, have probably helped keep Castro in power, and sanctions have done nothing to hurt North Korea.

I’d be in favor of narrowly targeted sanctions on officials, but broad sanctions have failed. Suu Kyi is her people’s real leader, and I hope she leads the Burmese democracy community to a reconsideration of sanctions.


Difficult Issues Clamor for Advocate’s Attention

Soe Than Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi left the headquarters of her political party, the National League for Democracy, on Tuesday.

Published: November 16, 2010

BANGKOK — The jubilant throngs that greeted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, this past weekend in Myanmar confirmed that her huge popularity remains intact. But as she steps gingerly back into the swirl of political combat, she confronts difficult realities that will limit her ability to translate that popularity into fundamental change.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi is taking a conciliatory tone, at least for now, saying she bears no grudge toward her former jailers and suggesting that she might support the relaxation of international sanctions against the military government in Myanmar, formerly Burma. “If people really want sanctions to be lifted, I will consider this,” she said in an interview on Sunday. “This is the time Burma needs help.”

After seven years of isolation in her lakeside villa, she is now overwhelmed with supplicants and supporters seeking her ear. “I know I said I wanted to hear what the public is thinking,” she said during her rally on Sunday, perhaps only half joking. “But now that there are so many voices and so much noise, I don’t know what is being said anymore.”

In the coming weeks, she faces difficult decisions on uniting the opposition, the demands of armed ethnic minority groups, the sort of movement she hopes to shape and the degree to which she chooses to challenge the government.

She must also assimilate new realities that include the rising influence of China, the dispersal of wealth among well-connected businesses, and the emergence of new institutions and new political players as a result of parliamentary elections held just six days before her release. And looming above all these concerns are the ruling generals who, whatever their gestures or promises, remain determined not to cede power or to allow any real democratic opening.

A new Constitution, passed last year, sets up a bicameral national Parliament, 14 regional parliaments, a president, a cabinet and new government institutions that will give military rule a much more complex form.

All but the very senior members of the military junta were required to resign to run for office as civilians and were replaced by a younger generation of officers in their 50s whose personal agendas could conflict with those of the senior officers.

“It’s not the same environment that existed when she was taken into detention seven years ago,” said Priscilla Clapp, the former chief of mission in the American Embassy in Myanmar and a principal adviser to the Asia Society task force on United States policy toward Burma/Myanmar.

“She has come out into a different world, and I think she is trying to feel her way into it,” Ms. Clapp said.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s mandate is precarious, built purely on the gauge of an applause meter, without an organized base or formal platform to ground her. Her party, the National League for Democracy, was forced to disband when it declined to contest the elections.

On Tuesday, she made her first trip into downtown Yangon, formerly Rangoon, to file papers with the country’s High Court asking to have her party reinstated, but analysts said the court was unlikely to rule in her favor.

While Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has moved cautiously so far, some analysts said they did not expect this spirit of compromise to last. “She’s always been confrontational, every time she has gotten out,” said David I. Steinberg, a professor of Asian studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, in an interview. “She has always tested the limits of how far she can go. I feel sure she’ll try to quietly test the limits of what she can do.”

She had been released twice before, in 1995 and in 2002, and both times she reached that limit. The outpouring of support for her was too much for the generals, and she was arrested and returned to detention.

Now 65, she has been under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Some people are asking not only what she might be able to accomplish now that she is free, but also how long she might remain free. She was returned to house arrest in 2003 after an attack by organized thugs on her motorcade that some people say was an assassination attempt.

“This is not an ordinary military dictatorship we are talking about,” said Bertil Lintner, the author of seven books on Myanmar. “This is a military that has become expert at staying in power.”

The liberation of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi says nothing about the broader motives of the military junta, Mr. Lintner said. “It’s a public relations exercise for foreign opinion after a totally fraudulent election, rather than part of political reform, which it’s not.”

The generals may see this as a moment of national redefinition, within the boundaries they set.

Along with establishing the new Parliament, they have moved into a new capital and decreed a new flag, a new national anthem and a new name for their nation: the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly the Union of Myanmar).

“I don’t think there’s a place for Aung San Suu Kyi in that new state that the military has created,” Mr. Lintner said.

Although the bottom line of military control remains unchanged, this is a nation in some flux as it sets up its first civilian government since a 1962 coup and as the military enters a period of generational change.

“She has to maneuver among all of these difficult transitional questions,” Ms. Clapp said. “The country is in the middle of a transition the likes of which it has not seen for a long time. There are many different outcomes, so I think she’s going to be very careful.”


Thursday, 25 November 2010

'The Lady' Hasn't Changed, But Neither Has the Junta

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

After a seven-year public absence from Burma's political scene, Aung San Suu Kyi reappeared to the cheering jubilation of a huge crowd of supporters. The adulation she received, coupled with her first public comments, demonstrated that nothing about Suu Kyi has changed except the wrinkles on her face.

Unfortunately, however, the rigged and fraudulent manner in which the junta conducted the recent election shows that nothing about the Burmese military regime has changed either, except maybe moving the capital to Naypyidaw during her house arrest.

Despite being under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years, Suu Kyi has clearly been able to maintain her influential role in politics and remains a symbol of hope for the Burmese people, whose support for her has not diminished during her two-decade struggle to achieve democracy in a country ruled by a ruthless regime.

The 65-year-old pro-democracy leader's political charisma still captivates her followers, who are ready and willing to heed her commands. Once again, however, this will surely be interpreted by the junta as a threat to its power.

Her first political speech, delivered on Sunday, briefly laid out a political road map that picked up exactly where she left off when placed under house arrest in 2003.

Suu Kyi reaffirmed that without the people's involvement, change is impossible. She also revealed her strategy for getting the people involved: the formation of a network of people to pursue her unfinished non-violent democratic struggle.

The grass-roots strategy of mobilizing her supporters to get personally involved in the cause is the same approach Suu Kyi used during her countrywide tour in 2003, when she traveled from the northern part of Kachin State down to the central Burma before her convoy was attacked by thugs near Depayin, where she was rearrested and about one hundred of her followers were reportedly killed.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Suu Kyi pushed the political envelope further when she said she wants to bring about a “nonviolent revolution.” She said that such a nonviolent revolution would consist of “a radical change” in Burma brought about in a peaceful manner, which she went on to describe as a “noticeable change” and a “great change for the better.”

That is a far cry from the junta's vision of building “a modern developed nation” under the leadership of the military in politics. And the question that must now be asked is: How will Suu Kyi mobilize a “people's network” to bring about a “nonviolent revolution” while avoiding another Depayin?

Despite the fact that the generals released Suu Kyi, the methods they used to rig the election show that the junta leaders are still of the same oppressive mindset as they have been for two decades and are not willing to risk any loss of their iron grip on power.

The regime still considers Suu Kyi their primary nemesis, and although Suu Kyi reiterated that the goal of her political discourse has always been dialogue with the generals rather than confrontation, her first public comments following release may have set the stage for another showdown.

In the near future, the junta will carry out the last two steps of its seven-step political road map when the first session of the new parliament is convened within 90 days after the election and a president is subsequently elected and forms the executive and judiciary branches of government.

As Suu Kyi was excluded from the election and her party, the National League for Democracy, chose not to participate because they believed the process was undemocratic, both will be absent from Burma's institutional political scene for the foreseeable future.

In this context, it is difficult to see how positive future change in the relationship between Suu Kyi and the generals will occur. So just as before, the junta and Suu Kyi's opposition will likely remain two parallel lines going in opposite directions.

The more things change in the junta's Burma, it seems, the more they remain the same.


Suu Kyi and Asean Need to Mend Fences

Monday, November 22, 2010

Since her release from house arrest on November 13, the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has occupied new headlines worldwide with media interviews. She has mentioned almost everything she wants to do for her country and people in coming months and years, providing that the junta does not arrest her one more time.

However, one topic has escaped her: Asean. Amazingly, she has not mentioned at all the grouping even once in those interviews that refused to communicate with her some 15 years ago. Her letter to the Asean foreign ministers in July 1995 remained unanswered. Of course, it was a bad start on both sides. At the time, it was simply a contestation of recognition between her and the junta. She wanted to communicate directly with the Asean leaders barely two weeks after her first freedom. Burma was also about to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Brunei paving the way for a full membership. Doubtless, Asean chose the side of junta.

At the time, she was overly enthusiastic about the role of Asean thinking unrealistically that it would be able to help and steer Burma in the right direction. Prior to the founding of Asean in 1967, Burma was approached to become a founding member of Asean by Thailand. Citing the principle of permanent neutrality, the then prime minister Ne Win refused to join the scheme arguing that the planned grouping was an imperial tool of the US. Exactly three decades later, Asean granted a membership to Burma in a hurry for fear of China's growing influence. On top of it, politics of admission served as a manifestation of the grouping's diplomatic independence against the Western harsh criticism on Burma.

Since then, Asean and Suu Kyi have transformed in their own ways reflecting the region's new dynamism and her own political maturity. After over a decade of admitting Burma and Laos, the grouping was confident enough to become a rules-based organisation that aspired to respect democracy and human rights. In the past two years, Burma has yet to display its willingness to compliance with the new Asean spirit of collective responsibility albeit the Asean-led humanitarian operation in the post Nargis.

So far, she has already met with some of the Western ambassadors. In the near future, arrangements must be made between her and the Asean ambassadors. The first known attempt, organised by Thailand, to do so in July 1995 in Rangoon was aborted due to Burma's strong protest. Poksak Nilubol, the Thai envoy to Burma at the time said that Asean lost the opportunity to bargain with Burma with the membership without any condition. He said Suu Kyi could be a moderating force.

Individually, Asean envoys can meet and sound her out. There is no provision under the Asean Charter that prohibits such a meeting. In this case, Thailand should not shy away for such an undertaking. On such matter, Cambodia has in fact pushed the envelope further by engaging with domestic players in a neighboring country. In April at the side line of an international meeting on democracy in Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met briefly informally with Anwar Ibrahim.

For Suu Kyi, as a prominent citizen of Asean and the only Nobel laureate, a senior stateswoman (only one too), her status and stake is even higher. All that is said and written in the Asean charter and all sacred documents of Asean would become futile and useless with the way the case of the Suu Kyi is being handled by Asean and its mechanism. It would certainly make a mockery of the Asean promises.

More than the Asean leaders would like to admit, she has a moral authority far beyond any of them. She is the best known Asean citizen living. She can challenge them to look at her case and handle it the way they have pledged their honor and commitment to do for "the People of Asean." There is no need to remind them that the Asean Charter begins with "We the People" like the American Declaration of Independence. During the drafting process of term of reference in 2007, this preference was approved quickly without dissension.

If she wishes, she can claim and capture that high moral ground by writing an open letter addressed either to current Asean chair Viet Nam through the end of this year or next chair, Indonesia, stating her principles and vision making a clean brake from the past. Unlike the restrictive situation in Asean back in 1995, currently more Asean citizens are living under democratic environment than ever before. Indonesia, which used to serve a model of the current Burmese military junta, has transformed itself into a vibrant democracy. The Philippines also has a new president that commits to democratic values. All Asean members have also pledged to make the grouping a people-oriented community.

That way, she would be able to communicate broadly to the Asean leaders and ordinary people.

Suu Kyi can indeed play a positive dual rule on behalf of Burma in Asean as well as for Asean in the global stage. She can improve the standing and image of both Burma and Asean. Judging from her statements since her release, she would certainly maintain rather active public life and is not going anywhere or stay idle. Her political future might some days follow the same path of other dissident leaders around the world who later took up leadership roles. In the Asean, many foes have turned friends after the collapse of Berlin Wall. Leaders of Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia could easily recall their first meeting with their former enemies after joining Asean. Such leadership rapports might take years to establish. It would be wise for Suu Kyi and Asean to do it now.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is senior editor and a columnist at the Bangkok-based English-language daily newspaper, The Nation. This article appeared in The Nation on Monday.


Myanmar’s Leading Dissident Reunites With Youngest Son

Soe Than Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with her son Kim Aris after his arrival at Yangon airport on Tuesday.


Published: November 23, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Myanmar’s leading dissident, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was reunited with her youngest son on Tuesday after a decade-long separation during which she said she never felt that they had been apart.

Soe Than Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, center, left the Yangon airport with her son Kim Aris on Tuesday. They met after a 10-year separation.

“I am very happy,” she said in a telephone interview after meeting her son, Kim Aris, 33, at the airport, and she thanked the military junta for giving him a visa after repeated refusals.

But she said, “I don’t feel that I’ve been apart from him for so many years. I never felt apart from him.”

Nevertheless, only a few days after the exuberance of her release, she sounded weary, perfunctory and even curt during the interview, saying, “I don’t want to talk about it,” when pressed about her feelings about her reunion with her son.

The decision to grant him a visa was a symbolic gesture of leniency by the junta, which released Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi after her term of house arrest ended 10 days ago. She has been allowed to meet with supporters and give interviews.

The reunion on Tuesday underlined the personal toll of the political campaign Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has waged during the past two decades.

During that period she was detained for 15 years and only rarely allowed visitors or communication with the outside world.

She has always been free to leave Myanmar, according to her lawyers, but chose to stay for fear of being denied re-entry.

“I don’t believe in looking at it as a sacrifice,” she said of her decision to embrace her fate as a political martyr. “It’s a choice. It’s a choice I made.”

Now that she is free, she said, she intends to lead what she calls a nonviolent revolution, rather than an incremental evolution.

She said her use of the term “revolution” was justified because, “I think of evolution as imperceptible change, very, very slowly, and I think of revolution as significant change. I say this because we are in need of significant change.”

The change she had in mind, she said, was “a change for the better from the point of view of human rights and democratic institutions.”

But she said that unlike some of her supporters in the West, she did not see regime change as a goal. “What we want is value change,” she said. “Regime change can be temporary, but value change is a long-term business. We want the values in our country to be changed. We want a sound foundation for change.

“Even if there’s regime change, if these basic values have not changed, then one regime change can lead to another regime change and so on and so on.”

She said she did not endorse moves among her supporters overseas to try to bring the junta leaders into international court for crimes against humanity.

“I’ve never said I want them to be brought into the international court,” she said. “I don’t think there is any solid reason for the generals to fear for their safety. We are not after them personally. I certainly do not wish them ill.”

As for her own ambitions, she said, “I’m not very much concerned whether I personally come to power, but I am concerned about the power of the people.” The people of Myanmar, whose aspirations and whose popular uprisings have been crushed over the years, must understand that real power is in their hands, she said.

To this end, she said she would continue to work through her party, the National League for Democracy, although the government banned it as a political party when it declined to take part in a parliamentary election this month.

For the moment, she said, she is busy in Yangon, the main city of Myanmar, but she did not rule out a resumption of the trips she made around the country during her last one-year period of freedom, in 2003.

“One should be free to travel around one’s country as one chooses,” she said.

Her last period of freedom ended when a government-backed mob attacked her convoy, killing dozens of people and forcing her to flee for safety.

Asked if she might again be putting her supporters at risk in public gatherings, she said, “They don’t have any reason to feel nervous just because they come out to greet me.”

But she said, “In any society where the rule of law is not firmly established and basic human rights are not respected, there’s always a risk.”

Asked about the personal animus the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, is said to feel for her, and what she thinks of him, she said, “I don’t think we know each other well enough to care or not care for each other.”

Television footage on Tuesday morning from the airport in Yangon showed Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and her son in a brief embrace before walking out of the terminal together.

One of the first things he did after greeting his mother was to show her a red tattoo bearing the symbol of her party, which won an election in 1990 but was not allowed by the military to take power.

This month, the junta held its first election since then, carefully engineered to produce a victory for its favored party, creating a new Parliament that analysts say will provide a civilian face to continued military rule.

In 1991, a year after the previous election, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which was accepted for her in Oslo by her older son, Alexander Aris. Her late husband, Michael Aris, raised their two children in Britain. He was unable to visit with his wife before his death a decade ago at the age of 53, and she refused to leave the country to see him for fear that she would not be allowed to return to resume her house arrest.

Asked in the interview about the culture shock of emerging from the sensory deprivation of house arrest to the tumult that surrounds her now, she said, “It’s a bit hectic, but it will calm down in a few weeks.”

Thomas Fuller contributed reporting from Bangkok.


Burma's evolving opposition

Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters will find they are not the sole voice of opposition

With Aung San Suu Kyi released and elections completed in Burma, South Asia specialist and Chatham House associate fellow Marie Lall argues that the political landscape for opposition forces could now be very different.

On 7 November, Burma went to the polls for the first time in 20 years.

A total of 37 political parties stood for more than 1,100 seats across two houses of parliament and 14 local legislative assemblies for the seven states and seven regions.

The parties included the pro-regime USDP, the NUP representing the regime which had ruled the country between 1962 and 1988, and a plethora of other, smaller parties, including the NDF - the splinter party from the pro-democracy NLD which had withdrawn from the elections and advocated a boycott.

They also included a large number of ethnic minority parties which were focused in particular on the representation of their ethnic group and were standing not across the whole country, but primarily in states where they had potential constituents.

Advance voting

The playing field was seriously tilted in favour of the USDP, which was able to field candidates in almost all constituencies, whilst the pro-democracy parties were limited to much fewer candidates, largely because they had so little time to raise funding for registration fees and election expenses and to set up and organise their parties and secure membership.

The playing field was seriously tilted in favour of the USDP

The elections also had the controversial feature of advance voting, whereby many officials and members of the armed forces were instructed to vote before the 7th. The elections were therefore not expected to be in any sense fair.

On the day reports from across the country show that on balance the behaviour at the polling booths allowed for a free choice.

There were also reports of infringements, and the USDP is heard to have offered new clothes, coffee and snacks as incentives.

Mostly however, especially in the urban areas, people were able to vote as they pleased. The counting in each polling station, in many but not all cases held in front of party representatives and members of the public, registered wins for opposition and ethnic minority candidates alongside those of pro-regime candidates. On the night of the 7th there was cautious optimism.

On the morning of the 8th, a number of constituencies reported that the counting of the advance votes, largely cast for the USDP quite possibly under pressure had nullified a number of wins.

Whilst the official constituency based results are still unknown, the regime has announced winning 80% of the seats, and a number of those who believed they had been elected the night before have found that they have lost to the advance ballots.

Campaign groups, the NLD, and other anti-election forces will say that this is no surprise. Yet despite this the elections still matter. Those in Rangoon report that people are upset - but they also say that the teashops are buzzing with political talk.

Politics is legal again, people are openly supportive of legally accepted opposition parties. Some parties, including the NUP, are considering taking the matter of overturned wins through advance votes to court.

'Third force'

The main outcome of the elections has been that the new opposition parties - who decided to try to bring change within the structures allowed by the regime, have gained popular support.

One outcome of the election is that political talk is buzzing again

Loosely known as "the third force", they were considered of little importance until now. They are cautioning that people need to press on and remind that no-one ever thought the process of change would be easy.

Their leaders are now waiting to see how the institutionalisation of the new structures will play out. Their role is to maintain the existing political space open whilst preparing to use it for the next elections in five years.

What about Aung San Suu Kyi? If she is allowed to move about now she is free, she will draw crowds of supporters.

But she will also find a very different political landscape from the one she encountered after her last release.

Whilst it can be expected that she will draw a hard line in opposition with the regime over the legality of the new constitution and the new government, it would be wise to take into account the fact that the NLD, now defunct as a political party, is no longer the sole voice in the opposition.

This mantle will have to be shared with the third force. In fact, co-operation with the new opposition forces would probably be the best strategy to unite those fighting the regime, albeit from different political positions.

Whilst Aung San Suu Kyi is unlikely to compromise, she risks marginalising the NLD movement in the long run with an uncompromising stand.

Those who are fighting for change within the new structures will ultimately be able to find some common ground with the regime, leaving the NLD out in the cold.

What does this scenario mean for the rest of the world, and most importantly for those outside the country or on the border?

What is fast becoming Burma's greatest fault line is the rift between the anti-regime groups inside and those outside of the country.

They want the same thing but cannot reconcile their positions.

Today this is the biggest challenge for society in Burma - the need for a convergence between the two opposition groups.

This will start only when those abroad and the NLD acknowledge the role of the new opposition parties in the struggle.

Failing this, the fight will not end up being against the regime, but against each other rendering the opposition meaningless.

Marie Lall is a South Asia specialist at the Institute of Education, University of London, and an associate fellow at Chatham House.


Suu Kyi Does Not Support War Crimes Trial for Generals

Published Thursday, 25 November, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi said she does not support efforts to bring the Burmese military generals in front of the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes. “I’ve never said I want them to be brought into the international court,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “I don’t think there is any solid reason for the generals to fear for their safety. We are not after them personally. I certainly do not wish them ill.” The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma has called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.


Notes to all: We must follow our leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, without wavering.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi visits site where political career began

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's freed democracy leader, maintained her determination to return to her normal life when she prayed with her youngest son at the country's holiest Buddhist site, the place where her political career began.

Aung San Suu Kyi last saw Kim Aris in December 2000 Photo: EPA

By Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok 2:17PM GMT 24 Nov 2010

Kim Aris, 33, who lives in Britain, and his Nobel laureate mother paid homage Rangoon's gold-domed Shwedagon Pagoda, in the corners linked to the days on which they were born.

Then the pair, wearing traditional Burmese garb, gave flowers as an offering and ritually poured water over the statues. Asked what she prayed for, she laughed and replied: "I cannot reveal it. Otherwise, my wishes might not be fulfilled."

Ms Suu Kyi, 65, was reunited with her son after a decade when he flew into Rangoon on Tuesday after he was finally being granted a visa following a three-week wait in the neighbouring Thai capital.

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She was freed from seven years' house arrest ten days earlier and met Mr Aris at the airport, where he pulled off his over-shirt to reveal a tattoo of the symbol of Ms Suu Kyi's now dissolved National League for Democracy party.

The return to Shwedagon was symbolic in other ways. It was the site where in 1988 she gave her first big speech calling for democracy in the country ruled by the military for 48 years.

It was also the focal point where monks gathered during the so-called "Saffron Revolution" in 2007, which was also ruthlessly put down by the military.


Myanmar to evict AIDS victims from Suu Kyi shelter

YANGON, Myanmar -Myanmar’s health ministry has ordered the eviction of 82 HIV/AIDS patients from a shelter run by supporters of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi because the center is not hygienic, state media said Wednesday.
An official at the facility said the patients have refused to move, setting the stage for a showdown with authorities who said they must vacate by Thursday.
Local authorities last week ordered the HIV/AIDS victims to leave following a visit by the newly freed Suu Kyi, who promised to help provide badly needed medicine.
Health officials inspected the shelter in July and August and found it unhygienic with patients susceptible to infections because of overcrowding, the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said.
But shelter organizers said authorities simply want to pressure them because of the visit by Suu Kyi, who was freed from more than seven years of house arrest Nov. 13.
Yarzar, one of the center’s staff members who uses only one name, admitted the shelter was crowded but said preventive measures were taken against the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis.
Health authorities offered to relocate patients to a state-run HIV/AIDS center, but they refused to move out as their shelter not only offers medical care, food and accommodation but “warmth and affection that no other center can provide,” Yarzar said.
Since the patients have decided not to leave, Yarzar said he was ready to face any consequences.
The shelter, which includes a small wooden house and a two-story building of wood and thatch walls, accommodates 82 patients, including young children.
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy, was first arrested in 1989. She has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.
Suu Kyi led her party, the National League for Democracy, to victory in 1990 elections, but the junta refused to recognize the results.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Suu Kyi, Son, Reunited after 10 Years Apart

23 November 2010
Photo: AFP
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi holds the hand of her younger son Kim Aris after his arrival at Rangoon airport, 23 Nov 2010

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been reunited with her younger son for the first time in 10 years after an emotional scene at Rangoon airport.

The pro-democracy activist was waiting at the airport Tuesday morning when 33-year-old Kim Aris arrived on a flight from Thailand, where he had waited two weeks for a visa. The two posed arm-in-arm for photographers and Aung San Suu Kyi said she was "very happy."

Aris showed his mother a tattoo on his right arm with the symbols of his mother's National League for Democracy party.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who married and had her two children in Britain, has been largely cut off from her family since she returned to Burma in 1988. She has spent 15 of the last 21 years in prison or under house arrest.

Aris was repeatedly denied permission to visit Burma during his mother's latest house arrest, which ended 10 days ago.

Through her lawyer, Aung San Suu Kyi thanked authorities for granting the visa on this occasion.

Aung San Suu Kyi also has an older son, Alexander, who is reportedly living in the United States.


Monday, 22 November 2010

There's Hope Again in Burma

Tyler Chapman

Our correspondent found Burmese people realistic and hopeful after Suu Kyi's release

RFA/Tyler Chapman
Posters of Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on Rangoon's street two days before her release on Nov. 13, 2010

RANGOON—After 48 years under an oppressive and often brutal military dictatorship, the Burmese people know better than to think the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest is going to change their lives any time soon, if at all.

But now there’s a glimmer of hope that she may be willing to reconcile with the government and try to work together to improve peoples’ economic prospects.

One third of the country’s 55 million people are mired in grinding poverty, living a day-to-day existence. For many of the rest, it’s not much better.

“I’m going to work for national reconciliation,” Suu Kyi told her first news conference. “That is a very important thing. There is nobody I cannot talk to. I am prepared to talk with anyone. I have no personal grudge toward anybody.”


It was a message many here were hoping to hear, for it may have signified a departure from her steadfast resistance to compromise with a regime that annulled her election as the nation’s leader in 1990 and kept her under house arrest most of the time since.

An indicator of her new-found flexibility may be her decision, shortly before her release, to drop her long-held opposition to foreign tourists visiting, and bringing their money to, Burma. This after her National League for Democracy had refused to take part in Burma’s tainted Nov. 7 elections and urged people not to vote.

The regime is under no obligation to respond to Suu Kyi, but many Burmese are hoping it will.

“The government should approach her and offer her some kind of role,” a businessman told me. “This situation has to change. We need change. We need to move the country forward.”


Specifically, people in the streets want the West to lift economic sanctions against Burma, and they know it will happen only if Suu Kyi approves, such is her influence in Western capitals. It is one of her trump cards in dealing with the government.

“If people really want sanctions lifted, I will consider this,” she said at her news conference. “This is the time Burma needs help.”

The sanctions were imposed after Suu Kyi’s election was disallowed but have had no effect on the junta’s human rights policies or the plight of some 2,200 political prisoners. If anything, the sanctions left an economic vacuum that China has been more than happy to fill.

Lifting the sanctions would renew trade with the West, open the way for western aid and investment and, according to economists, boost employment in Burma and help it start catching up with its Southeast Asia neighbors. Right now, the average income in Burma is little more than a dollar a day.

What would entice Suu Kyi to acquiesce on sanctions is anyone’s guess. But the country’s newly elected civilian government, though dominated by former generals, may find a way to open a new chapter in relations with the daughter of the country’s revered founding father. The new government won’t take effect until early February.

No more orders

“As civilians, they will need to stop giving orders and listen to the people,” my businessman friend said.

“The government is in a no-win situation with Suu Kyi,” a political analyst told me. “It had to release her because there was no more reason to hold her. And if it arrests her again, there is bound to be trouble in the streets.”

The outpouring of support for Suu Kyi demonstrated her popularity is undiminished. Thousands packed the streets for her initial public appearances, many of them young people hoping she can force change for the better. Others flocked to satellite television to watch the images on the BBC and the outlawed Democratic Voice of Burma.

State-controlled Myanmar Television carried a brief announcement of Suu Kyi’s release, without pictures. But the New Light of Myanmar, the regime’s mouthpiece newspaper, said she was freed by police officials who told her “that they want the nation to be peaceful and tranquil in the future and that they stand ready to give her any help she needs.”

Whether the regime will try to confound her plans to travel around the country for town meetings is yet to be seen. She insisted before she was released that there could be no limits on her freedom of movement.


In the back of her supporters’ minds is the “Depayin massacre,” on May 30, 2003, during Suu Kyi’s previous period of freedom. Her convoy and supporters were attacked by government-backed thugs during a countryside visit. As many as 70 were killed. Suu Kyi narrowly escaped unhurt in what her aides described as an assassination attempt.

Senior General Than Shwe, Burma’s dictator, has never shown a willingness to compromise with his opponents. Perhaps he will go along if the new civilian government suggests talking with Suu Kyi. But make no mistake: the army and its feared intelligence apparatus will still pull the strings.

“I hate to say this,” a friend close to the army told me. “But I don’t think anything will change until the top two generals (Than Shwe and Maung Aye) are dead.”

Than Shwe is 75. Maung Aye is 72.

Aung San Suu Kyi is 65.

TYLER CHAPMAN was in Burma witnessing the Nov. 7 general elections, the first in two decades, and during the subsequent release from house arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

CPPF paper - Outcome of the Myanmar elections

(2010) CPPF - Outcome of the Myanmar Elections

Suu Kyi moves cautiously

The newly freed Aung San Suu Kyi has been giving out cautious signals of what she plans to do now that she is back in sunlight. While her release from long detention was surely a seminal event not only for the people of her country but also for the rest of the world, it was how she intended to make use of her freedom that became an important question for many. Perhaps there was reason enough here for such a question. In her previous stints of fitful freedom, Ms. Suu Kyi’s refusal to go soft on the military junta ruling her country swiftly saw her back in lonely imprisonment. That as well as the feeling in a good many quarters that her idealism had all along been getting the better of her judgement may well have played a role in her present change of attitude. Where earlier she was vociferously in favour of outside nations clamping sanctions on her country unless the regime relented, now she appears to have shifted ground just a little.

And that shift has largely to do with how she perceives the role of the United States in an evolution towards democracy in her country. She does not believe any more that American engagement with the junta is ruinous for pluralism. The position fits in rather well with that adopted by the Obama administration, which clearly has come round to the idea that a dialogue, after all, with the military regime is better than a so far fruitless policy of isolation of it. One may quite be mystified by the way in which the military, in power since 1962, has hung on despite international condemnation of it. Sanctions have not worked, for the simple reason that a good number of nations, notably the country’s neighbours, have regularly maintained trade with Myanmar. That has certainly not earned the regime any respect. It has only demonstrated its entrenched nature. Such a reality now seems to have dawned on Suu Kyi, who has nevertheless urged Washington to keep its eyes open and remain alert about what happens from here on in Myanmar. Her emphasis on human rights is a sign that while she may be ready to change tactics in pursuit of her politics, her goal remains unflagging.

Ms. Suu Kyi must be encouraged in the careful moves she makes toward egging, by slow degrees, Myanmar toward democracy. The regime, for all its self-confidence generated by the recent ‘elections’, will need to engage not just with America but with Suu Kyi as well. The woman who led her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to a landslide electoral triumph in 1990, is in every sense Myanmar’s face to the outside world. It is for the Obama administration and other democratic nations to see that Aung San Suu Kyi remains the symbol of her people’s aspirations. And it is for Myanmar’s generals to make sure they do not again make the mistake of ignoring her. So far, she has refused to fade away or be silenced.



Aung San Suu Kyi walks fine line between peaceful revolution and provocation

AUNG San Suu Kyi is planning to test the boundaries of her new freedom.

The Burmese pro-democracy leader is to tour the country to rebuild the opposition and restore her support outside the big cities

Now that the first applause has died away since her November 13 release from house arrest, the hard part starts for Suu Kyi as she tries to revive the Burmese democracy movement in the face of repression. “I had better go on living until I see a democratic Burma,” she said laughingly.

Suu Kyi’s smiling face looks out from colourful photographs on the front pages of newspapers hawked by children in Rangoon.

There is always the spray of flowers – like the Queen, she manages to accept them with graceful surprise every time – and always the rapturous band of supporters. Apart from a few lurking plain-clothes operatives, the army and police are nowhere to be seen.

Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.

End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

However, Suu Kyi says Burma has changed since she vanished into confinement seven years ago. And some of those changes may not work in her favour. It is, perhaps, the bustling normality of Rangoon in the week since her release that poses a testing question for “The Lady” and the generals.

There are traffic jams, a real estate boom that has construction workers hammering into the night, crowded tea-shops, throbbing nightlife and a flood of money from Asia that is delivering prosperity to more people than the democrats like to admit.

Stability plus wealth equals successful authoritarian rule, a formula the junta has learnt from its Chinese allies, says a seasoned foreign diplomat. “They have taken the risk of releasing her because they think it works,” he said.

The gap between traditional Burmese hierarchies and the kind of viral politics that could lead to the “peaceful revolution” of which Suu Kyi spoke last week is wide. She has talked of using IT to spark change, but the junta keeps a tight grip on Burma’s sputtering internet connections.

And the generals, skulking in their jungle redoubt at the newly built capital, Nay Pyi Daw, need only watch and wait. Diplomats are also watching and waiting to see how Suu Kyi walks the fine line between promoting peaceful revolution and provoking the regime into locking her up again, or worse.

“We are going slowly and carefully,” said Win Tin, a leading member of Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy. Her aides predict Suu Kyi will move step by step to visit constituencies in Rangoon first, then go outside the capital to restore her links with other activists.

A key test will be her return to Mandalay, the golden-spired city in central Burma where protests by Buddhist monks in 2007 led to a heavy crackdown on its myriad monasteries.

There are also hard political challenges. The NLD was dissolved by the junta after Suu Kyi and her lieutenants decided to boycott the first elections in 20 years, those held on November 7.

This week her lawyers will pursue an application in court to restore its legal status, but the Burmese judiciary does the junta’s bidding, so any verdict in the case will be politically directed.

Then she has to deal with the reality that the junta shrewdly splintered the democratic movement by persuading a significant number of opposition figures to stand in the election, even though they knew it was neither free or fair. Some won seats.

No fewer than 37 parties contested the polls and Suu Kyi said it “would be nice” if her movement could work with those who shared her aspirations for a better Burma.

However, the junta has created a new normality. Its new parliament will probably convene soon to select a former military man as prime minister, governing with a huge pro-army majority and a token opposition. It will claim this is a return to civilian rule.

All of this renews the debate on sanctions and tourist boycotts. For China, most other Asian nations and for the junta’s fellow autocrats, sanctions are irrelevant. For the West, the uncomfortable truth is they have not worked. Investment is pouring in and even Japan has wavered. So governments and campaigners around the world are waiting for Suu Kyi’s first words on the policy.

“Sanctions are an asset to be traded for concessions,” said a diplomat in Rangoon. “She cannot give away her best card without something in return, and her mere release is not enough.”

Not a word has been heard from the senior general, Than Shwe, 77, on the events of the past week. His motives in releasing Suu Kyi, for whom he harbours an intense dislike, remain enigmatic.

She has called for a dialogue with him, spoken of her respect for the army, talked endlessly of reconciliation and promised that a settlement is in the interests of the soldiers as well as the people.

From the general, though, there is only ominous silence.

The Sunday Times



John Simpson on Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

John Simpson experiences Burma’s new “democracy”; dodging secret police through the streets of Rangoon after interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi talks on the phone to a reporter during an interview from her home Photo: REUTERS
John Simpson

Image 1 of 2
John Simpson, BBC News World Affairs Editor, learnt how to evade the Burmese secret police Photo: REX
John Simpson in Rangoon 8:00AM GMT 21 Nov 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi may have been released from her long years of house arrest, but she is still not free. The Burmese military government restricts her almost as much as ever.

Her son Kim is waiting in Bangkok, just over an hour’s flight away, but the Burmese authorities have not given him a visa to go and see her. She herself cannot leave the country, for fear that she will never be allowed to return. Her political party, the National League for Democracy, no longer exists officially. And she is under the observation of the security police twenty-four hours day.

Dr Suu Kyi’s officials assume that both her house and her headquarters are thoroughly bugged, in order to find out what her plans are and perhaps dig up further excuses to put her back under house arrest. Characteristically, her response is to take no notice. She certainly has not watered down her political line.

The government watches her obviously and aggressively, trying to cramp her style as she returns to daily life. Across the road from her headquarters, in a couple of shacks which are now an ad hoc police station, a group of plain-clothes security policemen is always gathered.

They are equipped with expensive stills and video cameras, and anyone who goes in or out of the headquarters is filmed and photographed. This is obviously a useful way of keeping tabs on any visitors, but it is also intended to intimidate Dr Suu Kyi’s supporters.

Characteristically, when I asked her about the activities of the security police last week, she maintained she had scarcely noticed them. This may not be literally true, but it is a statement of her state of mind. She insists on behaving as though she is completely free, and she seems to take no account of the police or the government’s sensitivities. Dr Suu Kyi is not a lady to mince her words.

Western journalists are not allowed into Burma, but a couple of dozen had managed to get tourist visas to enable them to cover her release. For us, the intimidation was pretty mild. The security police wanted to find out where we were staying and working, and taking our pictures was part of that process. Our mug-shots would be matched against the pictures on our visas, and at some stage we would be tracked down and asked, no doubt politely, to leave the country. Burma may be a police state, and an unpleasant one at that; but it usually sticks to the civilised norms with foreigners.

With Dr Suu Kyi’s Burmese supporters, though, the security police do not use kid gloves. This is why she stressed after she was freed that her own treatment under house arrest had been mild: she was anxious not to diminish the genuine sufferings of her party members who had been beaten and held under bad conditions in gaol for year after year.

Like secret policemen almost everywhere, the Burmese security are at one and the same time clever and grossly obvious. Like the Chinese security police, who seem to be in charge of training the Burmese, they are often good and often incompetent at following you. Good, because they are assiduous and there are large numbers of them; incompetent, because they know they have the power to do anything they want and this makes them stand out in any crowd.

Most obvious of all, many of them are equipped with garish little orange mopeds, made in China, which only the police can use in Burma. This means they can thread their way effectively through Rangoon’s heavy traffic in pursuit of their quarry; it also means that anyone riding an orange moped and staying tucked in behind your taxi is pretty certain to be following you.

It wasn’t hard to lose them. Rangoon is full of ancient, rusted taxis, and they are quick to respond if you wave at them. Fortunately, many of the main avenues are divided down the middle by railings. We learned to take a taxi in one direction, with our faithful orange moped behind us, then tell the driver to stop somewhere suddenly so the moped was forced to overtake us. Then we would jump over the railings and catch a taxi going in the other direction.

When we interviewed Dr Suu Kyi last Monday, our main concern was obviously to hold onto our tapes. The four of us – two cameramen, a producer and me – divided into two groups. We left her headquarters at the same time; two headed left while the others turned right. One of the cameramen and I jumped into a taxi and headed off, an orange moped close behind. At a big intersection we paid, jumped out, ran through the traffic, and jumped into another cab in the street at right angles to the avenue. As we crossed the avenue I spotted the orange mopedist at the lights, completely wrong-footed.

Our other team, who were carrying the main interview tape, had a harder time. Several policemen were following them, so they split up. The cameraman, who kept the tape, texted us to say he was having problems getting rid of his tail. At one stage he made his taxi-driver, who was extremely nervous, drive round a roundabout three times. Finally they stopped at a market and the cameraman vanished through it and out on the other side in a different street.

Compared with some places, Burma is relatively mild. The worst that would have happened to us was that we would have lost our tapes and been put on a plane out and blacklisted for ever more. That, I suppose will happen to us anyway. But having been banned from a range of countries in the past, including the Soviet Union to Czechoslovakia, Poland, China, Iran and Iraq, I know that times change and governments change with them. I expect I’ll be back in Burma eventually.

It’s even possible that Aung San Suu Kyi will be president by then.

John Simpson is the BBC’s world affairs editor. His reports can be seen regularly on the BBC’s News at Ten, on the News Channel, and on BBC World.



Saturday, 20 November 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi's Plea for Democracy

November 20, 2010 | 12:00 am
The Burmese dissident on free speech and the hard work of building freedom.

This weekend, after being kept under house arrest on and off for more than 20 years, Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi was released. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was greeted by adoring fans in Burma and a swell of positive media coverage around the world. The repressive junta that rules Burma, meanwhile, has not indicated it is willing to allow Suu Kyi to engage in activism to the extent her supporters might like: Her release has been dubbed a p.r. move, coming just days after a widely criticized, fraudulent national election, and observers expect the junta will not permit the reinstatement of her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Nonetheless, in a speech on Sunday, Suu Kyi called on her supporters to work together—and to have courage and patience—in order to build democracy in Burma. We reprint the speech, slightly condensed, here.

I have to begin by thanking you for your support. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, but I am happy to see that our mutual faith remains strong; it fortifies me. In order to do our work, we must know what the people want—you do know what you want, don’t you? Well, it’s fine to know what you want but you must also know how you are going to achieve what you want. I believe that politics must be learned. I have often said, in my talks with the youth, I don’t believe there is such a thing as good people or bad people, or smart or stupid people; I only believe that there are people who can learn and people who can’t. I believe that we, the people, can learn very well. It’s not enough to know what you want but also to know how to achieve it with integrity. I say this not to patronize, I say from experience that, no matter what the goal, if the path is without integrity, it will lose its way and be destroyed. This is why we must achieve what we want with integrity.

I know you have lots of questions to ask me, and I want to hear the voices of the people, but I can’t hear through the cacophony. I believe that I will now have the chance to listen to the voices of the people. While under restriction, I listened to foreign radio broadcasts to hear what the people are saying. Its very tiresome to listen to the radio for five to six hours a day but I do this out of regard for the people. So I believe that I am, to a degree, aware of the wishes of the people. I don’t believe I know everything. This is not possible. So the people must make their voices heard by us. This will help us help the people. I believe that the people now realize that nothing can be accomplished without the participation of the people. Because nothing can be accomplished without the people’s participation, we would like to create a democracy network across the world, of the people and by the people. It is only when we strive with this mentality [that we can] serenely achieve our democratic goals. In short, it means we have a lot of work to do. You will not get anything without working for it. We Burmese blame it all on luck. But do you know what luck means? Luck means you reap what you sow. So, if there is anything you want, you have to work to achieve it. We cannot simply bribe the people and promise them the impossible. We will try hard and pave the road that the people want. We will pave it together, and we will take that road together. It’s not right that one person paves the road while the other stands idly by. Speaking of paving roads, maybe I picked an inappropriate analogy. It was a slip of the tongue. What I mean is that we will walk the road that leads to the democratic goals. We will walk on it together, we will pave it together. It is only this way, can we reach our goals. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. We will not “force” you to do it. If you do not put your mind and soul into achieving it, otherwise, who knows whether it will end up with the tar being stolen.

I know that your show of support is not without expectation. The burden of these expectations is great and the responsibilities are immense. But I am not one to shy away from responsibility. But I am afraid of not being able to live up to my responsibilities. I will do my utmost to live up to these responsibilities and call on the people to help us, to advise us, to point out our shortcomings. Pointing out shortcomings, if done in sincere goodwill, is very helpful. It will help us help the people achieve their aspirations.

I would like to ask the people to please communicate with us openly and courageously. Please don’t have any qualms about talking to us. We won’t do anything to you. If we are not in agreement, we will let you know. This is the basis of democracy—that of freedom of speech. But freedom to speak is not the same as freedom to be abusive. Well, there may be a bit of admonition. It is very important to be able to achieve mutual understanding. To be able to exchange views. We have to practice this and improve on this.

Upon my release, the main change that I have seen is that there is a proliferation of camera-phones. I see camera-phones all over the place. This shows the development of communication. This development must be used for the good of the majority. Communication brings understanding. Please use communication to foster mutual understanding and unity. Show me your phones; let’s see how many there are. My, there are so many. I used a phone like this for the first time yesterday. Six years ago these did not exist here. I did not even know where to talk into—the phone was so... I will have to put up a sign for those who cannot hear me.

But it is not enough just to say you love me; you have to work. So I thought what love means. Love means the desire for mutual happiness and the implementation of that desire. It is not enough to keep repeating, “I love you.” If you want to give me that bouquet, pass it on. Why are you holding on to it?

I want to ask the people to tell us what’s on your mind. You can deliver the letter here, if you don’t trust the postal service. I want to know what’s on your mind. What has been in your mind over the past six pears, what has changed. I can’t know all of this at once. I have to study it. It’s not feasible to speak to all of you individually. If possible, I’d like to hand over the mike to you and listen to what each of you has to say. It’s not going to end. But I like that. It’s so boring to be the only one to speak. If there is an exchange of dialogue, it creates harmony and is more beneficial. I feel that it is not democratic if one person does all the talking. Let’s try it out. I will simply point to one of you in the crowd and ask you say a few words.


As I said just now, there is so much to do so you must save your strength. Well, it’s been twenty years of having a hard life, so you must be used to it. I don’t want you to continue to have a hard life. Having a hard life isn’t the point. The point is that the hard life must be worthwhile, and then one can have endurance. So you must save your strength to make it all worthwhile.

I want to tell you not to be dejected. Sometimes there may be some things in our country that will make you feel dejected. Surely you must feel that we have not gotten anywhere or that there has been no development. But there is no reason to feel dejected. We must strive hard. Perseverance is important. We must continue to persevere from the start to the finish. The work is never done. Even if something is finished, there will be something else. Building a nation is like this, one thing after the other has to be done. There will never be full satisfaction of the people but we must strive to achieve a measure of satisfaction. I cannot promise this, but with the trust, dependence and support of the people, I will be fortified because I cannot do it alone. I don’t want to do it alone. Doing it alone is not democracy. I have no intention to do it alone. I will do it with the majority, with the people of this country, and with the global community that have shown us goodwill and support. We will do it with everybody. We have to keep this firmly in mind.

Courage means is not what some people think, to be up in arms and being a hero. Courage means the resolve to achieve ones goals. We must have this kind of courage. Go to the movies if you want a hero. Courage is a daily task. Don’t we people have to muster the courage to face each day? We have to use this courage beneficially and effectively for our country.

It’s not enough to think only of oneself or one’s own family. I want to reiterate this. Please don’t have the attitude that politics do not concern you. My father has said that before, that you may not be concerned with politics but politics will be concerned with you, you can’t avoid this. Everything is politics. Politics is not just coming here and supporting us. The housewife, who is cooking at home, also has something to do with politics because she is struggling to feed her family with the money she has. Struggling to send children to school is politics. Everything is politics. No one is free of politics. So saying that politics does not concern you and that you do not wish to be involved in politics is a lack of awareness of politics. So I ask the people to try and understand politics and to teach us. We must teach one another. Unless the people teach us what democracy is, we will not make mistakes.

What is important in a democracy is that the people at the back must be able to keep those who are working in the front, under control. This is democracy. The people, who are the majority, must have the right to keep the rulers, who are the minority, under control. This is democracy. So I will accept it if the people keep me under control. But of course, I do not like it if those, who are not of the people, keep me in control. But then, I only say this in passing. During the time of my detention I had a lot of interaction with the people who were in charge of my security. They have been good to me. I have to say what the truth is. Since one must show appreciation to those who are deserving, I say with sincerity that I am grateful to those who were in charge of my security. I want the people to be able to have mutual understanding and gratitude. A revered monk once said when I was young that those who were worthy of gratitude and those who showed gratitude were hard to find. I found the latter hard to accept. I thought that human beings were capable of showing gratitude. But that is not true. There are some who show ingratitude. What does showing gratitude mean? It means just to have mutual recognition.


So now I want to know how the people are going to embark on a journey of politics. So if we have to depend on the people, we must have an exchange of views. I will continue to work for national reconciliation among the people, among all of us. There is no one that I cannot work or talk with. If there is a will to work together, it can be done. If there is a will to talk to one another, it can be done. I will take this path. On taking this path, I declare that we need the might of the people. I ask you to support us with the might of the people. Whatever we decide, we will let the people know.

I haven’t finished consulting with the [National League for Democracy (NLD)], but I will not only work with the NLD. I will work with all democratic entities and I would like the people to encompass us. We will tell the people, explain to them what our decisions are. There may be things that we decide which the people may not like. But this is natural. Not everyone can be of the same opinion. Accepting that there can be a difference of opinion is a democratic principle. Why do we do this? We must gain the trust of the people not the votes of the people. We will gain the understanding and support of the people. I apologize that I cannot clarify this further at this stage but it would be reckless of me if I were to start announcing one activity after the other, just after my release.

In the meantime, we would like to hear the voices of the people. We will decide how to proceed after listening to the voices of the people. But as I have said, we will use the might of the people and work with all the democratic forces and we will work for national reconciliation. In doing so, we will do it in a way that would bring the least damage to the people. I can’t guarantee that there will be no damage at all. If I were to do so, it’s another form of bribery to say that by following us, there will be no sacrifice. But we will find the least damaging way. There may be some sacrifice, we have suffered, our colleagues have suffered, so I ask you for a little forbearance if you have to sacrifice anything. You can’t simply want something without sacrifice.


It is important to differentiate between right and wrong and to have the courage to stand by what is right, but what is right can be relative to the occasion. My father used to say that he was not afraid to stand before the court of his conscience. Since I have stood before the court, I am not afraid to stand before the court of my conscience every day. I ask the people to stand before the court of their conscience to find the answer as to whether one is undertaking what should be done. If you can do this, your might will increase immensely. Remember if might is not used rightly, it is a menace. Might that is used rightly cannot be overcome by anyone.

Let us now have a little test of your empathy, understanding, and forbearance of one another. The people over there are complaining that they cannot hear. I am about to finish speaking. So can I suggest that the people in front make way for the people on the other side? So now you can hear can’t you? So if one group of people were to always remain in one place—that’s not good. Now that’s fair isn’t it?

So now I would like to thank all of you who took the trouble to come here and to show your support. We have repeatedly said that we depend on the might of the people and we cannot succeed without the might of the people. This might of the people must be used systematically. When the people in front stand up for too long the people in the back get annoyed. The people in the front shouldn’t be standing up for too long. The people in the back should also have a little forbearance if they are standing up for just a while. Well, so what, but it’s different if they are standing up too long of course.

I would like to repeat what I said that we have to work together to achieve success. You will not succeed just by wishing and hoping. You must be able to know how to achieve your aspirations and have the courage and ability to do so. We will find the best way. That is to find a way that avoids bringing suffering to the people as much as possible to achieve these goals. I am a fervent believer in national reconciliation. I believe that this is the path we should take. Let me openly tell the people here that I have no grudge against the people who kept me under restriction. I believe in human rights and the rule of law. I will always strive for this. I don’t harbor hatred of anyone. I have no time for this. I have too much to do to harbor any hatred. The people in charge of keeping me under restriction were good to me. This is the truth and I value this and I am grateful.

Likewise, in every aspect, I would like everyone to have good interaction with one another. How wonderful would it be if the people were also treated as nicely as I was? But, of course, I don’t mean that the people should be put under house arrest. So I would like to plead, “Please don’t put the people under house arrest like I was, but please be nice to the people just as you were nice to me.”

We must value the good things and be grateful things that are worthy of gratitude. Just because one doesn’t like it, it does not mean that everything is bad. There are good things and there are bad things. So don’t be angry if people say you are doing bad things. If you don’t want the people to say this, then just don’t do anything bad. Just as I value what is good and am grateful, I am not hesitant to say so. It’s so rewarding to be able to be able to give recognition to someone worthy of gratitude. I want to do this. I want to be so grateful so just do things that are worthy of gratitude and I will sing your praises all day. So I want to thank each and every one of the people. Of course, I would end up with a sore throat.

So let me say thank you. Keep up your strong resolve. People say that the courage of the Burmese is like straw fire. I don’t like this. This shouldn’t be so. A human being must have all its manifestations and live in human dignity. Do you want human rights? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins by saying that everyone is born with inherent dignity. This dignity must be upheld. The dignity commensurate with these rights must be upheld. I don’t wish to make a one-sided statement by repeating what should be done for the people. There are also things that the people must do. Everyone must know his or her responsibility and be able to fulfill them. Only then will our country develop. So it goes without saying that whether or not our country has developed, is something that the people will know more than I do. But rather than blaming who is at fault for this lack of development, I would only like to ask for the opportunities for us to work together hand in hand.

I don’t like the people having to hold out their hands to beg. I shall not hold out my hands to beg and I believe that my people do not wish to hold out their hands to beg. I believe that people want the right to development so we must work to give the people the right to development. There must be opportunities for people to be able to feed themselves to the full.

We shall proceed in consultation with democratic entities and the NLD shall not go it alone but hand in hand with majority. Furthermore, the majority must be encompassed by the people. We cannot do it without the people and we ask for their assistance. I ask for your faith and support. So keep up your strength. I feel bad to ask you to eat up since I hear that you do not have enough to eat. I ask you to keep up your physical and mental strength. It is with this strength we shall work together to reach our goal. I would have to say that there are some of us who have lost sight of that goal. But to have to walk the path to reach this proper goal is priceless. Man is mortal. One day it will all be over, but before it is over, how one has led one’s life is the most important. So I take this opportunity to honor those of our colleagues and comrades who have given their lives to the cause for democracy; to honor our colleagues and comrades who are still in prison. Let us pray that they will be released as soon as possible.


Myo Yan Naung Thein on Democratisation of the Nation

Burma's Myo Yan Naung Thein on Junta's Parliaments

Myo Thein on BBC News Channel on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Released

Radio Free Asia (RFA): Myo Thein's Perspective on Burma



Burma's Suu Kyi Signals Support For US Engagement

VOA News19 November 2010

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says U.S. engagement with Burma is a good thing but says the United States needs to be practical about it.

In an interview with CNN television aired Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi said she is not opposed to the United States engaging in diplomacy with Burma's military government. However, she said U.S. officials should not go into talks too optimistic.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest one week ago, after spending 15 of the last 21 years under some kind of detention. Since her release, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has called for reconciliation talks with Burma's junta leader, Than Shwe.

Also Friday, the U.S. State Department said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a personal letter to Aung San Suu Kyi. A spokesman would not discuss its contents.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States places a special responsibility on Burma's government to guarantee Aung San Suu Kyi's safety. He said now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, she should be able to reconstitute her party as she sees fit.

Aung San Suu Kyi's release came days after political parties backed by the military swept Burma's first elections in two decades.

Western leaders and human rights activists said the vote was neither fair nor free and an effort by Burma's military to put a civilian face on its continued rule.

The election results show that the military's political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, won a large majority of the districts.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.