Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi is free

At long last, one of the world's greatest pro-democracy activists, a woman of incredible courage and strength, is free:

The Burmese military authorities have released the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest.

Appearing outside her home in Rangoon, Ms Suu Kyi told thousands of jubilant supporters they had to "work in unison" to achieve their goals.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years. It is not yet clear if any conditions have been placed on her release.

US President Barack Obama welcomed her release as "long overdue".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Ms Suu Kyi was an "inspiration", and called on Burma to free all its remaining political prisoners.

Ms Suu Kyi, 65, was freed after her latest period of house arrest expired and was not renewed by the military government.

Of course, Burma* remains a totalitarian state. The elections last week, which not surprisingly resulted in an outcome favourable to the ruling military junta, were neither free nor fair. They were, in a word, a sham.

For our many previous posts on Burma and its totalitarianism, see here.


I would not necessarily view this as a direct victory for President Obama, but it is noteworthy that he has been a vocal advocate for her release. As he said about a year ago, a few months after her conviction for violation of house arrest:

Despite years of good intentions, neither sanctions by the United States nor engagement by others succeeded in improving the lives of the Burmese people. So we are now communicating directly with the leadership to make it clear that existing sanctions will remain until there are concrete steps toward democratic reform.

There are clear steps that must be taken: the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; an end to conflicts with minority groups; and a genuine dialogue between the government, the democratic opposition and minority groups.

Okay, most of that hasn't happened. But Suu Kyi's release is still a significant event. While it isn't nearly enough, and while the totalitarians may hope that it quiets the opposition, what is needed now is an even stronger push from the U.S. and the West, as well as from Burma's neighbours (notably India and China).

The Burmese people, living under the boot of oppression, need our help.


Remember Burma! Watch these:

Burma from marusa on Vimeo.


* Why Burma and not, as it is widely called in the media, Myanmar? As I first put it here:

Can we all please stop calling it Myanmar? That's the name the military junta -- then the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), since 1997 the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) -- gave the country when it declared martial law
in 1989.

As Yale law professor Amy Chua puts it in her book World on Fire (p. 23): "Members of the majority ethnic group in Burma are called Bamahs (in the spoken language) or Myanmahs (in the written language). The newly independent state that emerged from the end of British colonial rule in 1948 was called the Union of Burma. In 1989, SLORC changed the country's name to Myanmar. (It also changed the names of various cities: Rangoon, for example, is now called Yangon.) In deference to the democratic opposition party, which has refused to acquiesce in the name change, the United States government currently refers to the country as Burma, and I do the same."

We all should do the same. Burma it is.

Thank you.

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  • I am so happy, that she is freed, but why did no one intervene earlier. She could have been free decades ago.

    By Anonymous Carol, at 10:30 AM  

  • If there's anything amusing in the continuing horror story it's the example of how we, and especially we Liberals, are too often willing to go along with changes in nomenclature and lazy about asking why.

    Burma it is.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:13 PM  

  • She is unsuitable as her father himself was military junta before becoming PM and thrown off his 'throne' by other junta. If Aung San Su Kyi becomes PM, she would create an OLIGARCHY and FAMILY DYNASTIES and is thus unsuitable to be PM and needs to step aside for other NLD leaders as an example to the people of Burma.

    Any second liner supporters of Aung Sang Su Kyi or in NLD however could be a great PM in lieu of Aung San Su Kyii herself though. Aung Sang herself creates conflict of interest as her father was also PM, and she would creates oligarchy and family dynasty if she becomes PM.

    That scenario is no better than a Military Junta being in power currently. Aung Sang Su Kyi herself is also likely a CIA/FBI plant, so, no thanks and Burmans, please be aware that the US is still stinging from it's Vietnam losses, now they target Burma? Choose anyone in the NLD except her, if you want NLD to be respected and not accused to creating FAMILY DYNASTIES.

    To prevent nepotism/oligarchy/ FAMILY DYNASTIES is very important in the 3rd world. Those who support such behaviour have 'VESTED INTERESTS' and are selling out fellow citizens and democratic protections and prohibitions on Oligarchy/Dynasty.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 PM  

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