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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #44

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, October 7, 1996


"Strange siege"

Letter from Burma (No. 44) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	As I have remarked often enough, life is certainly not dull for dissidents
in Burma.  But sometimes a little bit of dullness does not come amiss.  In
fact it provides a measure of welcome relief, time in which to stand and
stare for at least a few minutes a day.
	The National League for Democracy decided to hold an All Burma Party
Congress on the eighth anniversary of the day when it was founded, the 27th
of September.  Now one might have thought that such an event, which is part
of the normal routine of any political party, would not have caused the
authorities to do more than perhaps cock an inquisitive eyebrow and set the
military intelligence running around busily gathering information.  One
would not have imagined that they would be rocked to the very soles of their
military boots. Well, one would have been wrong.
	On the evening of the 26th, we received information that once again, as at
the time of our proposed conference for NLD Members of Parliament in May,
the authorities were rounding up those who were to attend the Congress.
Around half past 9 at night, army trucks started going past my house and
later, a police car or two went along the already cleared street with sirens
blaring.  It was all rather tedious and we went to sleep.  Waking up at 5
o'clock in the morning, the unusual silence told me that our road had been
blocked off.  It was not altogether a surprise.
	At 8 o'clock, U Tin U, one of our deputy chairmen, was let through and he
told us what had been going on outside.  Our helpers, who had been scheduled
to arrive at 4 o'clock to start cooking the meal that we would be offering
to monks as a prelude to our Congress, had been prevented from entering the
street.  After some negotiation, two of our NLD women members were allowed
in to take charge of the huge pots of curry that had already been half
prepared the night before.  Soon after, our chairman U Aung Shwe and our
other deputy chairman U Kyi Maung also arrived.
	I learned that a number of NLD members who had come for the Congress were
at the road junction not far from my house where barricades had been placed
to prevent people from entering the street.  At about 10 o'clock we decided
to walk over to them and to tell them to go to the NLD headquarters.
Walking along a street deserted except for security troops was not a new
experience for me.  It happened again and again during my campaign trips
around Burma in 1989 and 1990.  And last April, too, on Burmese New Year's
Day, we had walked down our street when it was emptied of everybody except
security personnel and members of the Union Solidarity and Development
Association armed with surreptitious batons, with which they had been
instructed to beat any members of the NLD who penetrated the barricades.
	This time also the USDA were present, a couple of busloads of them milling
around in the public garden at the top of the road for a purpose that we
found hard to discern.  When we reached the road junction, our party members
who had been made to go to the other side of the street came over to ask us
what we wanted them to do.  We told them to go to our headquarters, and were
just about to go back home ourselves when an army officer came to ask us to
disperse.  It was a typical over-reaction, unnecessary and quite senseless,
as the crowd around us was made up largely of security personnel, uniformed
as well as in plain clothes.
	That afternoon, after the religious ceremony to commemorate the founding of
the NLD had been completed, U Aung Shwe and I went out to see how things
were at the party headquarters.  We found that the road where the building
was situated had also been closed off.  That very evening, the landlord was
illegally forced to annul the lease and to remove the NLD signboard from the
building.  The authorities had obviously decided to take all possible steps
to prevent us from carrying out the legitimate work of a normal political party.
	Now, nearly a week after the 27th, the road to my house continues to be
blocked off.  But U Aung Shwe, U Kyi Maung and U Tin U come over every day
and we carry on with our work.  "It is always still at the center of the
storm," U Tin U remarked.  And certainly there has been great calm in my
house even as the authorities have been arresting hundreds of our
supporters, making wild accusations against us and trying to force the
landlords of our party offices to remove NLD signboards.
	There is the proverbial silver lining to these storm clouds of increased
official repression.  The state of semisiege provides me with an opportunity
to take a rest from the gruelling timetable that I normally follow.  I do
not have to rush through my meals, and I have even been able to spare an
hour a day for walking round and round the garden:  a wonderfully relaxing
and invigorating form of exercise in which I have not been able to indulge
for years.  This strange interlude should serve to make me fighting fit for
whatever challenges we may have to face in the future.

* * * * * * * *
(This article is one of a yearlong series of letters.  The Japanese
translation appears in the Mainichi Shimbun the same day, or the previous
day in some areas.)