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Burmese Dissident as Defi
/* Written 1:32 PM Jul 19, 1994 by wov.central@xxxxxxx in igc:soc.cult.burma */
/* ---------- "Burmese Dissident as Defi" ---------- */
Subject : Burmese Dissident as Defiant as Ever Five Years on
BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuter) - Five years after she was first
detained, Burma's dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still the
most powerful and defiant symbol of the Burmese peoples'
attempts to end decades-long military rule.
While the ruling generals have made it clear they would like
nothing more than to see her leave the country, every day that
Suu Kyi stays confined in her Rangoon home is silent but
unmistakable testimony that she remains resolute in her
determination to bring change to her country.
"The concept of driving somebody out of their country is
totally unacceptable to me," Suu Kyi told visiting U.S.
Congressman Bill Richardson in February, in the first and only
non-family visit she has been allowed since she was first
detained July 20, 1989.
"They have tried to pressure me to leave the country in
ways that no self-respecting government would try," she said.
Apart from her meeting with Richardson, who was joined by a
Western reporter and a local United Nations official, the 1991
Nobel Peace prize winner has been kept incommunicado in her
ramshackle home with its overgrown garden on the shore of
Rangoon's Inya Lake.
But recent conciliatory signals from Burma's most powerful
general, military intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Khin
Nyunt, perhaps indicate that the junta sees a role for the
49-year-old daughter of Burma's independence hero Aung San.
"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not an enemy," Khin Nyunt told
The New York Times last week, using the polite Burmese title for
The junta was willing to "work hand in hand with
politicians who have opposed us in the past" Khin Nyunt said,
adding he would accept an invitation to talk with her. He did
not specify an agenda nor a date for a meeting.
The conciliatory tone is a far cry from the vicious
political attacks and personal slurs, denigrating her as
degenerate and anti-Buddhist, which the official media have at
Some Burmese dissidents warn that the junta's apparent
softening of its hard-line stance on Suu Kyi is merely a ploy in
advance of this week's meeting of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Burma's Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw
is due to attend for the first time.
Many dissidents and Burma watchers remain unconvinced that
there is any sincerity behind the junta's overtures and continue
to call for her unconditional release along with hundreds of
other political prisoners.
The Oxford-educated Suu Kyi was thrust onto the center of
Burma's political stage almost by accident.
She returned to her homeland from Oxford -- where she was
living with her husband, British academic Michael Aris, and
their two teen-age sons -- to nurse her ailing mother just as
the frustrations of 26 years of military dictatorship and
economic mismanagement boiled up into a nationwide cry for
In her first appearance before the crowds, outside Rangoon's
historic Shwedagon pagoda on August 26, 1988, she spoke of the
need for Burma's second struggle for independence.
The message was an obvious call for an end to military rule
which, since a 1962 coup, had terrorized anyone who dared to
speak out and reduced the once-rich country to the level of the
world's poorest nations.
The crowds quickly rallied to the slight, girlish woman, who
bore a striking resemblance to her hero father. She soon emerged
as a steely and charismatic leader.
Just days after the army finally crushed the protests in
September 1988, she co-founded a pro-democracy alliance -- the
National League for Democracy (NLD) -- to compete in elections
the new junta promised.
By the beginning of July 1989, Suu Kyi was drawing ever
larger crowds with a series of rallies in the provinces and
Rangoon in defiance of martial law.
Confrontation with the junta came to a head over NLD
attempts to organize an alternative commemoration on the July 19
anniversary of her father's assassination in 1947.
The following day she was confined to her house for
"attempting to endanger the state."
Despite her detention, the NLD went on to win more than 80
percent of the seats in May 1990 parliamentary polls. The junta
ignored the result and launched a sweeping crackdown on the
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for
her non-violent opposition to the Burmese military.
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