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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #9 (199

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, October 20, 1997


Letter from Burma (No. 9) By Aung San Suu Kyi

	The 27th of September is the anniversary of the founding of the National
League for Democracy (NLD).  Nine years ago on that day, U Tin U and I went
to the offices of the Multi Party General Elections Commission to register
our party.  I have only a vague recollection of the occasion:  sitting at a
table exchanging courtesies with the staff of the commission, putting my
signature to relevant papers.  That was how it all began.
	The history of the NLD has been a turbulent one.  We started as an
amalgamation of three forces.  Chairman U Aung Gyi, a well known retired
brigadier headed one group which included politicians, retired army officers
and businessmen.  Deputy Chairman U Tin U, one time commander in chief and
defense minister, headed the group which was made up entirely of retired
armed services personnel who had gathered together to work for democracy as
"patriotic old comrades." The group that I headed was made up largely of
writers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and technicians.  U Aung Gyi and his
followers left the NLD within a matter of months and founded their own
party.  U Tin U became the chairman and the two remaining forces in the NLD
gradually merged into a cohesive whole.
	The early days of the NLD were hectic ones.  Before we managed to rent a
nearby house for our office, my home was used as the unofficial headquarters
of the party.  Even after we acquired our official quarters much of the work
still had to be carried on in my house and came to be divided into three
realms:  one for the NLD, one for my mother who lay ill and one for my
private use.  As party activities increased, we put up thatched, bamboo
sheds in the garden and transformed part of the garage complex into
storerooms and living quarters for the staff.  An unfinished building in the
garden was also patched up to provide accommodation for some young people
who had come together as an informal political organization during the
revolutionary days of August 1988.  The front hall, dining room and pantry
of my house were transformed into reception rooms and offices.
	Going across from the offices to the part of the house where my mother lay
was like entering  an oasis of quiet medical care.  Her room opened out on
to a verandah and had a pleasant view of the lake through a tangle of palms
and casuarinas.  The doctors, nurses and friends attending to her were soft
spoken and cheerful and the calm atmosphere provided a welcome change from
the turmoil of political work.
	The rooms on the first floor that I so grandly referred to as my private
realm were in a state of chaos in those days.  All the furniture and bric a
brac that had to be removed from the rooms used for the NLD and for my
mother were brought upstairs so that it was a little like an overstocked
second hand shop.  (It was only after I was placed under detention that I
had time to bring order to the chaos and to create a comfortable study and
bedroom, the two rooms where I spent most of the six years of my house arrest.)
	My house is at number 54 University Avenue and the first NLD headquarters
was at number 44, so it was just a few minutes walk away.  This made
University Avenue a busy political thoroughfare.  A couple of tea shops
sprouted in the area and various food vendors took up position along the
street, providing ready meeting points for our workers and visitors.  During
the three days of the water festival of 1989 when the party organized a
competition of rhyming choruses and satirical skits which is traditional
during that time of the year, the road was blocked with an audience of
thousands.  Some would come early in the morning with a packed lunch so they
could sit through the day long performances and motor traffic had to be
	The political activities in the street came to an abrupt halt after I was
placed under house arrest in July 1989.  The office had to be moved a few
months later as the landlady did not feel in a position to renew the lease.
It was only on a few rare occasions during the next six years that I had the
sense that anything was going on in University Avenue.  There was the time
just before the elections of May 27, 1990 when a car went slowly past my
house making the announcement that supporters of the NLD should vote for the
Democracy Party.  I had been put up as the NLD candidate for the area, but
the candidate of the National Unity Party (the erstwhile Burma Socialist
Program Party) had lodged an objection on the grounds that I was married to
a non Burmese and that I had received support from the foreign media.  His
objection was rejected by the township elections commission, but it was
accepted by the Rangoon division commission.  Consequently, the NLD was left
without a candidate.  On May 26, 1990, arrangements were made for me to cast
my vote at home, one day ahead of the elections.  Keeping in mind the
announcement I had heard a few days previously I voted for the Democracy
Party, an act which filled me with a tremendous sense of solidarity and
	Such a sense of solidarity and satisfaction must have been experienced by
the millions who went to the polls the next day to vote for a democratic
government.  But as it became obvious that he authorities had no intention
of honoring the results of the elections disillusionment began to set in.
And as the people saw their hopes of a quick transition to democracy fading,
the street outside my house seemed to grow quieter.  The only times that I
was aware of any activity were during the water festivals when carloads of
young people doing the rounds of the water throwing stations shouted out
greetings to me as they went past.  University Avenue became more lively
after my release from house arrest, especially at weekends when our
supporters gathered to hear U Kyi Maung, U Tin U and I speak about the
political economic and social conditions within our country.  Bu the
authorities placed increasing restrictions on the activities of the NLD,
culminating in December 1996 with a blockade of the road to my house.
	Thrice over the last 18 months, the authorities have interfered with our
plans to hold a party congress.  The first time in May 1996, our elected
members of Parliament who had been invited to attend the congress were
arrested.  The second time, in September 1996, NLD members who had come to
attend the congress arranged to be held at my house were denied entry.
Again in May 1997 when we arranged another congress, the authorities adopted
similar measures.
	As September 1997 approached, we discussed plans for yet another congress.
After studying the situation from all angles we decided that we would
persist in our determination to exercise our fight as a legally registered
political party to hold periodic meetings.  The response of the members of
the NLD who were invited to the congress was most heartening.  Even knowing
full well that there was no guarantee that the meeting would take place and
that they might be courting arrest, they came in their hundreds from all
over the country, defying the monsoon rains and floods, rising transport
costs and, in some cases, the threats of their local authorities.  Their
courage and dogged perseverance were rewarded:  this time we were able to
hold our congress.  Of course there were still some hitches an some
harassment but the authorities were more cooperative than they had been for
a long time.  We sincerely hope that this the beginning of a more
enlightened era of politics in Burma.