Monday, May 30, 2011
Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner plans tour of country
A celebrated "conscience" of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi is planning a "political tour" of Burma (officially called Myummar) to begin in June. Now 65, this daughter of a Burmese ambassador to India, and married to an Englishman, returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. By chance, it was 1988, the year of mass protests when thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were shot dead on the streets of Burma's capital city, Rangoon.
A month after the massacre Mrs Suu Kyi addressed a crowd of half a million people on the steps of Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda. With a group of allies – mostly former generals – she founded the National League for Democracy and won a landslide election victory in 1990.
Mrs Suu Kyi should have become prime minister but the army, which has ruled Burma since 1962, ignored the result. Alarmed by her popularity (they had already placed her in custody in 1989), she has spent 14 of the last 20 years in jail or under house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi was released just the past November from 7 years of house arrest. In 2003, Her convoy was attacked by a junta-backed militia in an ambush apparently organized by a regime still frightened by her popularity. She was arrested along with many party activists and moved back to her Rangoon home placed under house arrest for a third time. The junta said four people were killed in that attack but her National League for Democracy party put the toll at nearly 100.
The tour will be a test of both Suu Kyi's popularity following an election that has left her sidelined from politics, and of her freedom to travel around the country unhindered by the authorities. Suu Kyi's party was disbanded for opting to boycott the November vote because the rules seemed designed to bar her from participating, and the party now has no voice in the new parliament.
Burma, or officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,is a country in Southeast Asia, bordered by India to the West and Thailand to the east. It is slightly smaller than Texas and has a population of over 53 million. It was a British colony as part of British India until 1948 when it achieved independence. Under military rule from 1962 on, the military orchestrated elections in 1988, but as noted above, retracted the process and has ruled harshly since. The United Nations and several other organizations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country, including child labor, human trafficking and a lack of freedom of speech.
The most recent version of its ruling elite - the State Peace and Development Council - was dissolved in 2011 following another general election in 2010 and subsequent inauguration of Burma's first civilian government.
So this is now a test, will one of its most famous citizens - with world recognition - be able to move the country via this political tour to re-establish a party and participate in its governance? It is worth watching, and hoping for,over the summer.