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Princess with a Cause, Part III
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She travels far and stays up late to discuss the book with book clubs,
Scout troops, students, professional clubs and anyone else who will invite
her. She wrote it, she tells them, to honor Sao, to provide a family
history for her daughters and to tell the story of Myanmar's oppressed
"She feels as though she has a mission," said Carol Koch, a Fairview
"I think she really believes that telling this story is an important part
of why she's here."
Koch said she didn't hear anything more than rumors about Sargent's "very
interesting past" until they had taught together for years.
Last year Koch assigned "Twilight over Burma" to ninth-grade English
students, then invited Sargent to class.
"The kids wanted to know more about what happened, and I know they don't
feel that that chapter in her life is closed," Koch said. "They know that
she's remarried and happy, but they want it to end like a story-book
romance, where the prince returns.
For years, Sargent hoped for that ending, too. Now, with the story told,
she's focusing on more realistic objectives.
"Free Burma -- Boycott Texaco," reads a bumper sticker on her car. "Free
Burma -- Boycott Unocal," reads another, registering her protest against
two major investors in a $1 billion natural gas pipeline under
construction in Myanmar.
Tad Sargent cut up his Texaco credit card and sent it back to the company.
Inge Sargent looks closely at labels. "Even at Foley's last summer, I
picked up a pair of shorts made in Myanmar, so of course I didn't buy
them," she said.
She offers a visitor a Diet Coke or a Hansen's soda, crisply adding,
"There's no Pepsi in this house." Pepsi also does business in Myanmar.
Texaco, Unocal, Pepsi and others have been targets of Sargent's polite and
persistent letter-writing campaign, which demands immediate withdrawal
from the country.
When the companies reply, they state that they are providing good jobs for
the people in a poor country and opening an isolated, oppressed nation to
modern technology and liberal thinking.
The companies, Sargent said, are propping up a military dictatorship.
Last summer, the Sargents and local Burmese dissident U Kyaw Win
demonstrated outside a Boulder travel agency that was offering adventure
package tours to Myanmar.
Other than the Sargents and himself, Win said, few Coloradans are
interested in Myanmar, "except for people who are trying to decide which
mountain to climb."
The Sargents were pleased when Massachusetts last week became the first
state in the nation to refuse contracts with companies that trade with
Myanmar's government. They also are lobbying for a federal bill for
economic and diplomatic sanctions against the country.
They would like to see Boulder, even Colorado, pass such resolutions.
Proceeds from"Twilight over Burma," now in its second printing, go to
refugee camps lining the Myanmar-Thai border. And the couple is ever
vigilant on the Internet, monitoring reports out of Myanmar.
"The more people who know what's going on there, the less likely the bad
guys can get away with what they're doing," Tad Sargent said.
Other observers agree that raising awareness may be the best support the
Sargents can offer.
"It is very important for anyone who has any knowledge of Burma to keep
the story of Burma alive," Silverstein said, "because the military would
love to see it disappear."
"As long as the army rules Myanmar, Inge Sargent can never go back.
"I don't dare," she said. "They would never let me out."
She and Sao agreed, she recalled, that if he were imprisoned, she should
leave the country.
If he were alive, he would find her. If he didn't appear within five
years, she should assume he was dead.
(To be continued in Part IV)