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Former Princess Of Burmese State of Hsipaw Fights for Democracy
BOULDER, Colorado (AP) _ A retired school teacher who once was a
princess in the Burmese state of Hsipaw is campaigning for
democracy for the people who crowned her 43 years ago.
``People do not know what's going on in Burma now,'' said Inge
Sargent of the land military generals renamed Myanmar in 1989.
``The roads are built by child labor, and they are using slave
labor to make way for tourists.''
The Austrian-born Sargent, 64, married Sao Kya Seng, prince of
the Burmese state of Hsipaw, in Denver in 1953. The two met while
they were students at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
Sargent, now remarried, was princess of Hsipaw _ one of the 30
remote Shan states on Burma's hilly frontier with China, Laos and
Thailand _ between 1954 and 1964. She and her husband had two
The Burmese army imprisoned the prince during a 1962 coup, and
Sargent and her two daughters never saw him again. He is presumed
After more than two years under house arrest, Sargent escaped
and smuggled her daughters to Austria.
A few years later, they moved to Boulder, where the princess
taught German at Fairview High School. At her request, a judge in
1968 declared Sao dead so she could marry computer scientist Tad
Until recently, she kept her past hidden.
Then, in 1994, she published ``Twilight Over Burma, My Life as a
Shan Princess,'' an account of her former life. In the book, she
describes how she began her days in Hsipaw ``by filling 20 vases
with cut flowers'' and that diamonds, rubies and sapphires were
part of her daily wardrobe.
In an interview from her modest Boulder home recently, Sargent
said she supports Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader
who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Suu Kyi urges foreigners to
boycott her country and dry up the military's sources of foreign
Texaco, Unocal, Pepsi and other companies have been some of the
targets of the Sargents' persistent letter-writing campaign, which
demands immediate withdrawal from Burma.
Sargent and her husband say the multinational companies are
propping up a military dictatorship.
The couple said they 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.
``The more people who know what's going on there, the less
likely the bad guys can get away with what they're doing,'' said
Bertil Lintner, a Thailand-based journalist and Myanmar expert
said Sargent and her late husband are still popular in Hsipaw.
``Given what's happened in the Shan states since the 1960s _
civil war, military rule and rampant drug production _ the time
before the military takeover in 1962 is seen as a Golden Era,
almost a dream when there was rice in the fields and people were
looking forward to the next pagoda festival,'' said Lintner.
Sargent said she has heard that some families still display the
royal photo of herself and the prince.
``When the army comes,'' she said. ``They hide it.''
021056 Jul GMT