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REUTER: Suu Kyi, Burma's Fearless S
- Subject: REUTER: Suu Kyi, Burma's Fearless S
- From: ktint@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 12:00:00
Subject: REUTER: Suu Kyi, Burma's Fearless Symbol of Hope
SUU KYI, BURMA'S FEARLESS SYMBOL OF HOPE, DEFIANCE
RANGOON, May 26 (Reuter) - Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from six years of
house arrest last year unbowed and as determined as ever to see democracy
restored in her country but under no illusions it was going to be easy.
"I am happy to be able to say that despite all that we have undergone,
the forces of democracy in Burma remain strong and dedicated," she told
reporters on July 11, 1995.
The day before the ruling military had surprised the world, announcing
in a terse statement that she was no longer confined to her Rangoon home.
From the day she was released, the woman who won the 1991 Nobel Peace
Prize for her non-violent campaign for democracy, stressed the importance
She said talks between the military, the democracy movement and ethnic
minorities was the only answer for her troubled country, riven by
generations of mistrust and its people largely cowed by authoritarian
"We have to choose between dialogue or utter devestation. I would like
to believe that human instinct for survival alone, if nothing else, would
eventually lead us to prefer dialogue."
"We've got to understand that things are not just going to be smooth,
we've got to work hard and we've got to convince those who do not believe
in dialogue that dialogue is the best way," she said in an interview after
Calling for patience and moderation, she clearly saw the possibility
of dangers ahead.
"Extreme viewpoints are not confined to any particular group and it is
the responsibility of the leaders to control such elements which threaten
the spirit of reconciliation," she said.
From mid-1988, when she emerged to head the democracy movement, the
slight but steely Suu Kyi articulated a popular urge for an end to the
military repression that has gripped the country since 1962 and beggared
one of Asia's richest lands.
Millions took to the streets in 1988 demanding change. The army
crushed the demonstrations with brute force, killing thousands according to
estimates by diplomats there at the time.
Despite her detention Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD)
won a landslide victory in a May 1990 general election, taking 392 of 485
The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) refused to
honour the result and silenced the NLD through arrests and intimidation.
Undoubtedly her appeal stemmed from the legacy of her father, national
hero Aung San, who led the country to the brink of independence from
British colonial rule before his assassination in 1947 at the age of 32.
Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon on June 19, 1945 and educated in Burma and
in India, where her mother was ambassador.
She won a scholarship to Oxford University and obtained a degree in
Politics, Philosophy and Economics before getting a job with the United
Nations secretariat in New York.
In 1972 she married British academic Michael Aris and brought up two
sons in the course of moves between Bhutan, India and Japan.
Suu Kyi was working on a postgraduate thesis at London University when
she returned to Rangoon in April 1988 to nurse her dying mother.
She soon found herself caught up in the student-led revolt.
In her first political speech at the height of the uprising she drew a
crowd of several hundred thousand people, perhaps the largest public
gathering then known in the capital.
"I could not, as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to what was
going on. The national crisis could in fact be called the second struggle
for independence," she declared.
In early 1989, she broke a virtual taboo by publicly attacking
officially retired military strongman Ne Win as the source of Burma's ills,
sealing her popular appeal, but also her fate -- she was placed under house
arrest on July 19, 1989.
"Everyone knew who was responsible for all the bad things in Burma,
but she was the first to blame Ne Win. No one had the guts to do that
before," one Burmese exile said.
She called the struggle of the Burmese people one of freedom from fear.
"For me real freedom is freedom from fear and unless you can live free
from fear you cannot live a dignified human life. It's not possible," she