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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #48

Mainichi Daily News, Sunday, November 10, 1996


Letter from Burma (No. 48) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	There is nothing to compare with the courage of ordinary people whose names
are unknown and whose sacrifices pass unnoticed.  The courage that dares
without recognition, without the protection of media attention, is a courage
that humbles and inspires and reaffirms our faith in humanity.  Such courage
I have seen week after week since my release from house arrest 15 months ago.
	Our brave supporters who come to our weekend rallies are a shining symbol
of true commitment and strength.  There are those who have not missed a
single rally and who have become part of the family of our hearts.  There is
our lovely /Ahmay/ ("Mother"), who has her hair up in an old-fashioned top
knot just as my own mother did during the later years of her life.  Ahmay
usually wears an insouciant smile on her face and a small flower in her
hair.  She is accompanied by /Ahba/ ("Father"), gentle of mien and quiet of
manners, and by their bright-faced young grandson.  Ahmay is the center of a
group of democracy faithfuls who have looked the cameras of the military
intelligence squarely in the lens and again and again braved the threats of
the authorities to demonstrate their unwavering support for the cause of
democracy in Burma.
	These unshakable stalwarts arrive early in the morning on Saturdays and
Sundays and stake out their places in front of my house.  They sit against
the fence on sheets of newspaper or plastic, seeking respite from the
glaring sun under the speckled shade of a tree.  During the height of the
monsoons, they construct a plastic awning under which they sit out the
heaviest deluges with unimpaired spirits and determination.  When U Kyi
Maung and U Tin U and I come out to speak at 4 o'clock, the are stationed
right in front of the gate with beaming smiles of welcome and affection.
They are the representative heart of the thousands who come to our rallies
because they believe in the importance of the basic democratic freedoms of
association, assembly and expression.  They listen intently to what we have
to say and respond with intelligence and humor.  Time and time again,
foreign visitors and correspondents have commented on the extraordinary
courtesy and good will that is evident among our audience.
	Our rallies are political rallies so the main thrust of our speeches is
about politics.  We respond to letters from the people about the current
economic, social and political situation; we discuss the latest
international developments; we talk about the struggles for justice and
freedom and human rights that have taken place in different parts of the
world; we criticize policies and programs which are detrimental to harmony
and progress in the nation; we touch on historical matters.
	One could say that each one of the three of us has a "specialty" of our
own.  U Tin U, as a one-time Chief of Defense Services and Minister of
Defense, as one who has spent two years as a monk and as one who has a
degree in law, talks most often about matters relating to the armed
services, to religion and to the law.  He is able to illustrate political
truths with stories from the teachings of the Buddha and to analyze actions
taken by the authorities against the NLD from the legal point of view.  He
has an arresting "voice of command" which at times makes the microphones
almost redundant.  There is a transparent honesty and sincerity about his
words that endear him to the audience.
	U Kyi Maung concentrates on economics, history and education and has a
delightful sense of humor.  Across the road from my house is a compound from
which the security services survey my house.  During our rallies a video
camera team stations itself on the fence and records everything.  Around
this team there is usually a small group of members of the military
intelligence and other security personnel: they listen carefully to our
speeches and sometimes they laugh so heartily at U Kyi Maung's jokes (some
of which are directed against them) that I can see their teeth flashing in
their faces.  His occasional stories about a "grandson" with a very MI-like
personality are great favorites.
	I am the one to respond to letters from the audience and discuss political
struggles that have taken place in Burma in the past and also in other parts
of the world.  I also talk often about the necessity to cultivate the habit
of questioning arbitrary orders and to stand firm and united in the face of
adversity.  One of my most frequent messages is the reminder that neither I
alone, or the National League for Democracy by itself, can achieve democracy
for Burma.  The people have to be involved in the process; democracy
involves as many responsibilities as rights.
	The strength and will to maintain two rallies a week for more than a year
came from our staunch audience.  At those times when the authorities were at
their most threatening the crowds become larger as a demonstration of
solidarity.  Even when the authorities blocked off access to my house to
prevent the rallies from taking place, people still came as near as they
could to let us and the rest of the world know that they were determined to
continue the struggle for the right of free assembly.


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.