Saturday, June 19, 2010
Isolated, but as Influential as Ever
By WAI MOE
Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent her birthday today like she has so many others over the past two decadesalone in her home in Rangoon, cut off from the outside world and separated from her supporters.
This year, however, the mood is even more somber than last, when she spent her birthday inside Rangoon's Insein Prison facing charges of violating the terms of her house arrest. At that time, she was able to mark the occasion in the customary Burmese mannerby giving to others.
Win Tin, a senior member of the disbanded National League for Democracy, joins other supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi at an event celebrating the democracy icon's 65th birthday. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Her current situation is even more isolated than it was when she was in Insein Prison last year,” Nyan Win, her lawyer, told The Irrawaddy on Saturday. “On her last birthday, she was at least able to donate food to her fellow prisoners.”
But members of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD)which was forcibly dissolved in May for failing to register for this year's electionmay have felt Suu Kyi's separation more keenly than she did herself.
Members of the party, who continue to meet discreetly, sent a birthday cake to her through a man who usually delivers groceries to her home.
“That is all we could do to have some contact with her on her 65th birthday,” said Nyan Win.
Even though they were unable to join Suu Kyi on this important occasion, many of her supporters around the country gathered to honor the woman known universally as “the Lady.”
According to Nyan Win, more than 500 people attended a birthday celebration this morning at the home of May Hnin Kyi, an elected NLD member of parliament, in Rangoon's Insein Township.
Win Tin, a close aide to Suu Kyi who has also spent many years as a political prisoner, chaired the event.
Elsewhere, supporters in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, held their own party to celebrate Suu Kyi's birthday.
“We celebrated her birthday at the famous Masoeyein Monastery in Mandalay,” said Ohn Kyaing, an executive member of the NLD. “Birthday events were also held in many other places, including Arakan State in western Burma and Tenasserim Division in the south.”
Some of her supporters donated food to monks and lay people at monasteries, while others gave money to the children of political prisoners or planted trees to make merit.
“More people joined the birthday events this year than last. It means that whatever lies ahead with the election, Suu Kyi’s popularity is still strong and she remains as relevant as ever,” said Nyan Win.
Another difference between this year's celebrations and those of the past is that none were held at NLD offices this time around.
Although many branches of the party are still open, members no longer use them for large gatherings, to avoid confrontations with the authorities.
With her party now dismantled, some have questioned whether Suu Kyi remains an important part of Burma's political equation, especially with an election coming that will produce the country's first ostensibly civilian government in decades.
Her supporters believe, however, that Suu Kyi remains a key to any lasting solution to Burma's deep-rooted problems.
Chan Tun, a veteran politician who attended today’s birthday event in Rangoon, said that even without a political party, Suu Kyi still wields enormous influence because she is the most popular leader in “the hearts of the people of Burma.”
“The junta may say that the NLD is no more, but the party is still working as normal with the support of the people,” he said.
Suu Kyi's popularity is not confined to the civilian population, according to Chan Tunshe also commands strong support among many in the military. “She could still win soldiers’ hearts in any elections in the future,” he said.
Even politicians who have decided to join this year's election acknowledge that Suu Kyi is still a force to be reckoned with.
“She will be an important leader in the future,” said Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein, a leader of the Democratic Party (Myanmar). “She commands more respect than any other Burmese politician. She is very smart and would be a good leader for the country.”
An indication of just how far Suu Kyi's influence reaches came in May, when several ethnic armed groups held a meeting at the headquarters of the United Wa State Army in Panghsang, near the Sino-Burmese border.
At the meeting, the groups agreed to support Suu Kyi’s decision on the election, saying that the election under the 2008 Constitution would offer no guarantee of ethnic rights in Burma.
“Most Burmese politicians do not understand the importance of ethnic issues in this country, but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi understands this,” said Aye Thar Aung, an Arakanese leader and secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, an umbrella group of ethnic and pro-democracy parties.
“Her greatest strength is her honesty. What she says on ethnic issues is not fake or mere political posturing, but an expression of her convictions,” he added.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Happy Birthday to Aung San Suu Kyi!
By SAW YAN NAING
People admire her, support her, love her, miss her and want to shake hands with her during the celebration of her birthday. She, perhaps, also wants to join the celebration.
However, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy icon, like on 15 previous birthdays, will spend it under house arrest, celebrating in a low-key party with her two companions this time in her lakeside home in Rangoon.
Members of the Elders group of eminent global leaders pose with an empty chair representing Aung San Suu Kyi.
Her colleague and lawyer, Nyan Win who is a spokesperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said, “We always hope she can celebrate her birthday together with people freely. We are very sorry that we will not have this opportunity.”
“My birthday wish for her is that I hope everyone who loves her will always support her and call for her release,” Nyan Win said.
Suu Kyi will be 65 on Saturday. She has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest in her lakeside home.
Suu Kyi's party will also hold a birthday event in Rangoon on Saturday. The party will offer food to monks, make donations to needy people and provide school material to students.
World leaders as well as her Burmese supporters called for her immediate release to mark her 65 birthday which will be celebrated around the world.
The Eldersa group of eminent global leaders founded by South African Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandelacalled on Asean and the international community to assist the government, the opposition, ethnic minorities and religious groups in Burma to begin a UN-led process of reconciliation.
The Elders includes former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Anan, ex US president Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Jimmy Carter, the former US President, said: “Aung San Suu Kyi is a global symbol of moral courage in the face of repression. As she spends yet another year in captivity, we urge the world, and especially Burma’s partners in Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], to recognize that it is an oppressive and misguided regime that excludes her and thousands of other political activists from playing a part in their country’s future.”
Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said, “National processes in Burma have been usurped by the military government. They do not serve the people. The elections due later this year will not be any different. With such deep fractures in society, the country needs an avenue for dialogue. Without a way to talk and reconcile with one another, the people will never achieve the peace and prosperity they deserve.”
Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “My fellow Elders and I believe it is time to document systematically the crimes allegedly being committed against the people by the military government.”
Also, Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland and Nobel Peace Laureate, said, “Neighboring countries have already experienced the effects of conflict in border areas and have the greatest interest in trying to prevent future instability. The international community should also make every effort to help Burma’s divided peoples to find a peaceful and prosperous way forward.”
Tomás Ojea Quintana, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, said, “I urge the government of Myanmar [Burma] to heed the call of an independent United Nations human rights body to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“I also call upon the government to release all prisoners of conscience in order to create the conditions for an inclusive election process and to demonstrate that it intends to take a more serious and sincere approach to its international obligations to uphold human rights.”
The Canadian ambassador to Thailand, Ron Hoffmann, said that his country will continue to support Suu Kyi and Burma's democratic struggle while the nation imposes strong economic sanctions against the Burmese regime.
Among the the last of the personal handwritten letters by Britain's former prime minister, Gordon Brown, after his resign on May 11, were two addressed to Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mandela and Suu Kyi.
In his letter to Suu Kyi, Brown wrote: “This is one of the last letters I write as prime minister, and I want it to be to you, to champion your cause for democracy in Burma and to say I will do everything I can to support you. You are, for me, what courage is, and I will fight for you to be free and your people [to be] free.”
Saturday June 19, 2010
Prisoner of conscience Suu Kyi turns 65
Yangon, Jun 19 (AFP): Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday marks her 65th birthday under house arrest as activists hold protests around the globe and world leaders call for the ruling junta to free her.
The military regime has kept the Nobel Laureate in detention for almost 15 years and she has been barred from running in upcoming elections that critics have denounced as a sham aimed at entrenching the generals' power.
Even so, the woman known in Myanmar simply as "The Lady" remains the most powerful symbol of freedom in a country where the army rules with an iron fist.
The opposition leader is expected to spend a quiet day at her lakeside mansion, where she lives with two female assistants, cut off from the outside world without telephone or Internet access.
Her supporters plan to throw a small party at one of their houses in northern Yangon in her absence.
Members of her National League for Democracy are planting about 20,000 saplings around Myanmar to mark her birthday and plan to send spicy food to her home to share with workers doing renovations.
"We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's political spirit will keep growing as long as the trees grow," said lawyer Aung Thein, an active NLD figure. "Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Events to mark her birthday are scheduled in cities around the world, ranging from candlelight vigils in Tokyo and Auckland to a solidarity rally in Washington.
Supporters have also posted messages of support on Facebook and other websites.
Suu Kyi's party won the last vote in 1990 but was never allowed to take office. A UN working group this week pronounced her detention a breach of international human rights law, prompting new calls for her release.
Suu Kyi's NLD is no longer recognised by the junta as an official party, having refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register -- a move that would have forced it to expel its leader and other members in detention.
Suu Kyi had her imprisonment lengthened by 18 months in August last year after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her home, and there are fears her detention may be extended again.
Her dedication to non-violence in pressing for change earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and placed her -- along with Nelson Mandela -- as among the world's foremost voices against tyranny.
Dublin ~ Sunday June 20, 2010
Icon Suu Kyi turns 65 amid calls for release
By Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok
BUrMA democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi marked her 65th birthday yesterday locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound as calls for her freedom rang out worldwide.
President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Suu Kyi's release in statements echoed at rallies and prayer vigils. Supporters threw a birthday party at the suburban Rangoon home of a fellow opposition member.
It was attended by more than 300 people but not the guest of honour.
Holding candles and yellow roses, they lit a birthday cake with 65 candles and released 65 doves into the sky while chanting, "Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi." Plainclothes security watched and videotaped the event.
Suu Kyi has now spent 15 birthdays in detention over the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. She is the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.
"It is very sad that she cannot celebrate her birthday in freedom," said her lawyer Nyan Win.
Confined to her home, Suu Kyi planned to celebrate by providing a lunch of chicken curry and an Indian-style flat bread for the three dozen construction workers helping to renovate her crumbling two-story mansion, Nyan Win said.
The tight security surrounding Suu Kyi's home allowed the delivery of a birthday cake and a bouquet of roses, orchids and lilies sent by political supporters. Members of her National League for Democracy party are planting 20,000 trees around the country, mostly on the grounds of Buddhist monasteries, to mark the occasion.
A confidante, Win Tin, made an impassioned plea for Suu Kyi's release.
"To the international community I want to reiterate her words: 'Please use your liberty to promote ours,"' said Win Tin, who co-founded the party with Suu Kyi and himself spent nearly 20 years jailed as a political prisoner.
Global condemnation over her imprisonment has failed to change the junta's harsh attacks on all dissent or soften their stance on Suu Kyi, whose steely grace, charisma and popularity remain intact.
Ahead of historic elections planned for later this year, Suu Kyi remains the biggest threat to the ruling junta. Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been dominated by military rule since 1962.
The vote will be the first in two decades. Suu Kyi's party overwhelmingly won the last election in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.
Obama praised Suu Kyi's "determination, courage and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice".
"I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners," Obama said in a statement.
The UN chief said he remains "deeply concerned" that Suu Kyi is still under house arrest.
"I have been persistently, consistently demanding that all the political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be released without condition as soon as possible... to participate in the political process," Mr Ban said. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.
Sunday June 20, 2010
“Luxuries” for Suu Kyi on 65th birthday
P. S. Suryanarayana
Myanmarese people in Japan celebrate the 65th birthday of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside the United Nations University in Tokyo on Saturday. (AP)
SINGAPORE: Aung San Suu Kyi, at present the world's most celebrated political prisoner, on Saturday spent her 65th birthday in forlorn circumstances under arrest at her lakeside residence in Yangon.
Amid worldwide calls and rallies for her immediate release, Myanmar's military rulers allowed her the luxury of receiving a lonely visitor, an old friend, who carried a few birthday gifts for her.
The elderly man, Ko Ni, is the only civilian granted daily access to Ms. Suu Kyi's residence under the watchful eyes of the junta's guards outside her house. Day after day, he has delivered food and other essentials as required by the pro-democracy campaigner and her two female assistants.
On Saturday, the junta made a gesture of allowing Mr. Ko Ni to carry some excess baggage bouquets and birthday cakes for the Nobel Peace Laureate. These were sent by some of her long-time political associates and followers. However, the leaders of her National League for Democracy, which stood dissolved last month under the junta's new rules for a promised general election, had no such luck to greet her on this special day. Asked about this over the telephone, an erstwhile NLD leader gave a simple but profound answer: “We can't [greet her]!”
Mr. Ko Ni carried some goodies for the female assistants of “The Lady”, as Ms. Suu Kyi is known in Myanmar, and for the workers now engaged in renovating her mansion, which has also been her prison for a number of years. Within the house, the junta allows her “total freedom of movement” and she can watch local television and listen to radio that might help her catch some international news sometimes but she has no telephone or internet connection. Just over a week ago, Nyan Win, Ms. Suu Kyi's political associate, was allowed to meet her, and he later reported that she was in good health and very alert. On Saturday, Mr. Nyan Win organised a Buddhist and secular ceremony to mark her birthday. Chaired by Win Tin, a seasoned political activist, the event featured traditional offerings to Buddhist monks, a read-out of Ms. Suu Kyi's old speeches, and donations of books to the children of political prisoners. Young people participated in the event, giving hope to the former NLD leaders that the democracy movement might still triumph.
Last year, when Ms. Suu Kyi was being held at a detention bungalow in the premises of a notorious prison in Yangon, pending her first-ever trial, she marked her birthday under acute surveillance. In a traditional way, she gave food, consisting of Indian biriyani, to the security officials, and they accepted the offering.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Wishing Suu Kyi Happy Birthday
By LALIT K JHA
US President Barack Obama led the world in wishing Aung San Suu Kyi a happy birthday today, as the Burmese democracy icon quietly celebrates her 65th birthday under house arrest in Rangoon.
Representing the collective voice of the international community, Obama called for her immediate and unconditional release and strongly condemned Burma's military junta for keeping her under house arrest. Suu Kyi has spent more than 14 years of the last 20 years under house arrest.
“I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens,” he said.
“Her determination, courage and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice,” Obama said in a statement.
“Towards this end, I encourage all stakeholders in Burma to engage in genuine dialogue towards national reconciliation, a vital step to set Burma on a more positive course for the future,” Obama said.
Members of the National League for Democracy Party pray for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in front of her portrait as they celebrate her 65th birthday at the home of a member of the party on Saturday.
Filipino activists sing a birthday song while holding a cake during a protest outside Burma's embassy in Manila's Makati financial district on June 18.
. Badges carry portriats of detained Burma's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi lie at a reception during a ceremony to mark her 65th birthday in Kuala Lumpur on June 19.
Observing that her enduring struggle for the fundamental rights of Burma's people is an inspiration to people everywhere, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said: “Sadly, she marks yet another birthday under house arrest; the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Laureate.”
Calling for her immediate and unconditional release, Crowley said: “Such an action would demonstrate a commitment to the brighter future the Burmese people so richly deserve and would help set the stage for true national reconciliation.”
Terming it a day for change in Burma, six women Noble Peace Prize laureates issued a joint statement urging the UN Security Council to take action against the Burmese junta, specifically calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.
The statement was jointly signed by Nobel laureates Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadiv and Wangari Maathai.
“We call on Burma's neighbors to stop providing money and guns to the military dictatorship. We call upon all states to condemn the undemocratic constitution of Burma, and the planned elections, and urge genuine dialogue with the democracy movement,” they said.
“Today is the 65th birthday of our sister Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, democratically elected leader of Burma. Once again, she observes her birthday under house arrest, denied the company of friends or family,” the Nobel laureates said.
“The military dictatorship ruling Burma denies Aung San Suu Kyi her freedom. They also continue to imprison over 2,000 others for expressing their political views. Those who live outside prison walls in Burma are not free from the brutality of the military regime either. Every day, soldiers rape women, children are forced to bear arms, villagers are forcibly removed from their homes and the majority of the population sinks deeper into poverty as the military elite prospers,” they said.
Wishing her a happy birthday, members of the US Senate Women’s Caucus said in a statement that they hoped to be able to celebrate this day with Suu Kyi in person in a free and democratic Burma.
“Suu Kyi’s message of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law continues to inspire not only her fellow citizens but the people of the world with her courage and resolve in the face of constant oppression,” the senators said.
The statement was signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kay Hagan, Amy Klobuchar, Mary Landrieu, Claire McCaskill, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Lisa Murkowski, Patty Murray, Jeanne Shaheen, Olympia Snowe, and Debbie Stabenow.
“For too long, the people of Burma have suffered indignity, discrimination and cruelty at the hands of the military junta. Their dream of a truly democratic and free Burma continues to be ignored and undermined by Burma’s military regime.
We deplore the regime’s failure to create a road map to true democracy that allows all of Burma’s people to participate in a free and fair manner,” the senators said.
In an open letter to Suu Kyi, the European Parliamentary Caucus on Burma, representing MPs from 16 countries, pledged to continue to work for genuine democracy and human rights in Burma, rejecting sham elections due later this year.
They called on European governments and the European Union to reject the elections and instead focus on pressuring the dictatorship to enter into dialogue with Suu Kyi and genuine ethnic representatives.
“The elections planned for Burma will not be free, and the Parliament will not be free. The whole process is designed to keep the political and business elite in control so that they can continue to steal the country's resources,” said Member of the European Parliament Raul Romeva.
UN Chief Urges Release of Suu Kyi
By EDITH M LEDERER / AP WRITER
UNITED NATIONS on the eve of Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Friday that Burma's military rulers release the detained pro-democracy leader and all other political prisoners.
The UN chief told a news conference that he remains "deeply concerned" that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is still under house arrest.
Suu Kyi's house arrest was extended last year after she was convicted on charges of violating the terms of her detention when an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside property. Her National League for Democracy party won the last election in 1990 but was never allowed to take power and she has been detained for about 14 of the past 20 years.
The first elections since 1990 are scheduled this year, part of the junta's long-announced "roadmap to democracy," which critics deride as a sham designed to cement the power of the military, which has ruled Burma, also known as Myanmar, since 1962. The country's new electoral laws were widely criticized as designed to keep Suu Kyi out of the race.
"I have been persistently, consistently demanding that all the political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be released without condition as soon as possible so that they would be able to participate in the political process since Myanmar is going to have an election this year," Ban said.
"This election should be an inclusive process where all the parties and all the people can participate," the secretary-general said. "This election must be held in a credible and impartial and objective way."
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD Sunday June 20 2010
Release Nobel winner, Obama tells Burma
Birthday wishes ... British ambassador to Indonesia Martin Hatfull speaks out for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi outside the embassy in Jakarta.
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has called on the Burma regime to free Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in a message sending best wishes for her 65th birthday.
Mr Obama hailed the Burmese opposition leader's ''determination, courage, and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change''. She spent her birthday yesterday under house arrest in Rangoon while global calls were made for her freedom at rallies and vigils.
The junta has kept Ms Suu Kyi in detention for almost 15 years and she has been barred from standing in coming elections that critics have denounced as a sham aimed at entrenching the generals' power.
''I wish to convey my best wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate, on the occasion of her 65th birthday on June 19,'' Mr Obama said.
''I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens.''
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley echoed the President's wishes. He said freeing her and her fellow political prisoners would ''demonstrate a commitment to the brighter future the Burmese people so richly deserve and would help set the stage for true national reconciliation''.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has also demanded that Burma's military rulers release Aung San Suu Kyi.
She plans to celebrate her birthday by providing lunch for the three dozen construction workers helping to renovate her crumbling two-storey mansion, her lawyer, Nyan Win, said.
She cannot attend a birthday party planned in her honour at the suburban Rangoon home of a fellow opposition party official.
Ms Suu Kyi has spent 15 birthdays in detention in the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. ''It is very sad that she cannot celebrate her birthday in freedom,'' said Nyan Win.
The National League for Democracy opposition party is planting 20,000 trees in Burma, mostly in Buddhist monasteries, to mark the occasion and will offer meals to monks as part of prayers for her release.
Dublin ~ Saturday, June 19, 2010
Hundreds attend Suu Kyi tribute
About 300 people attended the National Concert Hall on Saturday night for a special tribute concert marking the 65th birthday of Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Some of Ireland’s leading music, literary and media personalities - many themselves turning 65 this year - performed songs and recited birthday messages honouring the imprisoned Burmese democratic activist.
Christy Moore, broadcaster Eamon Dunphy and author Deirdre Purcell were among some of the performers at the event, hosted by RTÉ’s Marian Finucane.
Daw Suu Kyi has spent the last 15 years under house arrest because the ruling military junta see her overwhelming popularity as a threat to their regime, said Ms Finucane in her opening address.
Irish musician and activist Keith Donald used Daw Suu Kyi’s symbolic 65th birthday as a theme for the concert when assembling its line-up, which also included the