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Denver Post on ASSK
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>From The Denver Post (Colorado), Sunday, 30 June 1996, p. 12A:
Nobel laureate the 'Mandela of '90s'
Crusader Suu Kyi fights for people of Myanmar
By Mary George
Special to The Denver Post
Four decades ago, at a tea party given by the Burmese prime minister's
wife, Inge Sargent met Aung San Suu Kyi.
Sargent was the princess of Hsipaw, one of the Shan states on the
northeast frontier of the nation then known as Burma. Suu Kyi was a
well-behaved, unremarkable 10-year-old girl.
Today, Suu Kyi leads the National League of Democracy in the country that
has been renamed Myanmar. She won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and she and
her cause have been compared with Nelson Mandela and his fight against
South African apartheid.
"She is 'The Hope of Burma,' said Sargent, speaking for herself and
thousands of Burmese who want an end to the country's brutal military
Suu Kyi gained that title because of her repeated challenges to the State
Law and Order Restoration Council, the latest reincarnation of Burmese
military rule. Like Mandela, she has urged the international community to
pressure the regime by shunning trade and investment in Myanmar.
The generals have tried to control her influence, with limited success.
In the 1990 election, her party's parliamentary candidates won more than
80 percent of the vote. SLORC prohibited the parliament from convening
and arrested most of the elected delegates.
Last year, Suu Kyi was released from six years of house arrest. Since
then, she has addressed throngs of supporters each Saturday and Sunday
afternoon outside the family home in Rangoon, where she lives.
A month ago, SLORC targeted the weekend gathering by passing a new law
prescribing up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone who seeks to "undermine
the tranquility of the state, community peace and tranquility, and
prevalence of law and order."
But Suu Kyi has addressed crowds each weekend since.
Observers agree that Suu Kyi is insulated from the generals by the legacy
of her father, Aung San, the nation's national hero. "If she were not her
father's daughter, she would long be dead," Inge Sargent said.
During World War II, when Burma was a British colony under Japanese
control, Aung San went underground and led the fight against the Japanese.
That feat alone won him the country's heart.
After the war, Aung San peacefully brought the nation's often warring
ethnic states together in the Union of Burma, another giant
accomplishment. But in 1947, just as the country was winning its
independence from Britain, Aung San was assassinated, an act that gave the
national hero the status of national martyr.
Suu Kyi was 2 years old when Aung San was killed. She was educated in
England, married a Briton and returned to her native country in 1988 to
care for her ill mother. The nation's politics and economy were in
shambles, and a pro-democracy movement was fomenting.
Suu Kyi stepped into the protest leadership role.
Despite house arrest and death threats, Suu Kyi has advanced her cause by
playing to SLORC's weaknesses and to international sympathies, said Josef
Silverstein, professor emeritus at Rutgers University.
"Burma is broke, and the military has been led to believe that it should
open the country to tourists and large companies" to strengthen its
economy, Silverstein said.
"They need foreign investment, and that is why, in my opinion, they come
up to the gate, but they don't cross it. They intimidate Aung San Suu
Kyi, but they don't harm her."
Observers exude pessimism about the country's future.
"Burma is firmly under military control, stronger than at any time since
the first military takeover in 1962," said Thailand-based journalist and
Burma expert Bertil Lintner in an interview on the Internet.
"There is no sign whatsoever of Burma moving away from that state of
affairs. Civilian participation in the decision-making process is
nonexistent, and it's the generals who are calling the shots."