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Mainichi Daily News, Sunday, October 20, 1996

"Lifting the Siege"

Letter from Burma (No. 43) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	Things tend to happen in the middle of the night in military-ruled Burma.
That is the time when houses are checked by the local authorities for
unreported visitors; that is the time when dissidents are hauled off to
interrogation centers; that was the time when the road to my house was
blocked off before our party congress planned for the 27th of September.
That was also the time the barricades were removed after 11 quiet days
during which my house had remained cut off from the outside world, although
I myself was free to come and go.
	Taking the rare opportunity of completing my work at a reasonable hour, I
had gone to bed at 11 o'clock on the night of the 7th of October.  Around
midnight I became aware of voices in the garden.  I assumed that some of the
31 guests besieged in my house were having a late night discussion.  But as
the voices continued for some time increasingly animated tones I began to
think that there had been some kind of incident.  I was wondering if I
should find out what was going on when the voices faded away.  However, just
as I was about to drift off to sleep the voices started up again, louder
than ever.  Eventually at 2 o'clock I went down to investigate and
discovered that the road had been opened up again.
	The next morning visitors started arriving: there were our party members
who had just been released from detention, there were well-wishers and
supporters and there were journalists.  A press conference had to be
arranged at short notice.  We were back to the normal, hectic routine.
Within a few hours, the deliciously slow pace of the past 11 days was but a
wistful memory.  Eleven days is not a long time but it is long enough to
make one appreciate a different tempo of life.
	We had four normal days, four days in which to assess the events of the
past fortnight and to make arrangements for the work of the party to
proceed.  A question that came up frequently was whether we intended to
continue with our weekend rallies.  My reply was that we would continue for
as long as the people were prepared to come.  The authorities must have
realized that the people were prepared to continue their support of our
rallies because at midnight on Friday the 11th of October, the sound of
police sirens and rumbling trucks with which we had become familiar
announced that access to my house had once again been shut off.
	There was a slightly deja vu air about the next morning.  We all smiled at
each other and wondered how long we would be shut off this time.  However
there were a number of differences from the last closing down of the road.
To begin with, we did not have to worry about what to do with huge
quantities of half-cooked food, which was a relief.  Secondly, U Tin U did
not appear.  I have written several times about our deputy chairman U Tin U,
one time commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Burma, but I have not had
occasion to mention a particularly lovable trait of his: He has the strongly
developed instinct of the truly honorable soldier.  Whenever a difficult
situation arises he arrives to offer his protection and assistance.  When he
did not arrive I knew that he must have been prevented from coming.  I
waited until about 11 o'clock, then went to U Kyi Maung's house to find out
what was going on.
	A number of people were gathered at U Kyi Maung's house.  Among them were
some NLD members of Parliament from outside Rangoon.  Their bright
expressions and high spirits warmed my heart.  These were men who hold
sacred the promises they had made to their electorate six years ago, who
have faced many hardships and who are prepared to face many more that they
may keep faith with those who put their trust in them.  It is people like
them who make all sacrifices seem worthwhile, it is as much for love of them
as for love of freedom and justice that I am engaged in the struggle for
	At U Kyi Maung's house, my suspicion that this time none of our /lugyis/
(elders) would be allowed to come to my house was confirmed.  It just meant
that I would have to come out to see them, to confer with them and to carry
on the work of the party.  "Business as usual" was our motto although our
methods of carrying out business had to be somewhat unorthodox.  For the
next few days we met at different houses at different times to complete work
that should have been conducted in a regular party conference.  Everywhere
we went, the authorities exhibited the most intense, not to say vulgar,
curiosity, surrounding the place with military intelligence and security
personnel, wasting a lot of video and camera film recording all the comings
and goings.
	We estimated that the government intelligence organizations must spend
between 80 to 90 percent of their time, energy and money on matters related
to NLD activities.  How much more sensible it would be to come to a
civilized settlement that would remove the need to spies and sieges.


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.