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PAUL BALLES : THE IRON BUTTERFLY IS FREE

“She is the one and only national leader who can bring freedom, justice and democracy to our country.” –Aung Din, Director of US Campaign for Burma


65-year-old pro-democracy Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi is free

By Paul Balles / STAFF WRITER

“The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech,“ said Aung San Suu Kyi to roaring cheers from thousands of supporters.


Suu Kyi, just released from seven years of house arrest in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights.

Myanmar’s ruling military junta has actually kept Nobel laureate Suu Kyi under arrest of one kind or another for 15 of the last 21 years.

“I hope they (the military) won’t feel threatened by me. Popularity is something that comes and goes. I don’t think that anyone should feel threatened by it,” she reflected.

According to a report on television’s MSNBC, Myanmar is rich in natural gas, timber and minerals, yet “it ranks among the world’s most corrupt countries.”

How has the Western world reacted to the situation in Myanmar and to Suu Kyi’s imprisonment for being an outspoken and popular leader?

Ready to invade, occupy, bomb other countries, the West has done little to upset the Myanmar regime, no matter how long they kept Suu Kyi imprisoned or under the regime’s control.

Suu Kyi is the anomaly of the powerful woman.  Strong enough to remain in her country because of her dedication to her people when her husband was dying of cancer in the UK; the democracy activist is the thorn in the Myanmar regime.

In 1990, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election victory; but the military snatched it away.

Last week, the military manufactured its own landslide victory. Suu Kyi refused to vote and the NLD was dissolved. That means she will have to rebuild the NLD now that she has been released.

According to the BBC, “…the generals are taking a huge risk in releasing her from house arrest and the battle of wills is only just beginning.”

“In arranging for her release,” the New York Times reports, “the military had asked her to agree not to leave Yangon and not to give public speeches. When she refused, she was asked at least to wait awhile before speaking. She refused again and proceeded with her address on Sunday.”

Her attorney has said that one of her first steps will be to join the NLD’s investigation of electoral fraud. That will put her at risk of finding herself imprisoned again.

One thing that accounts for Suu Kyi’s popularity has been her willingness to sacrifice for her people. When her husband, in London, was dying of cancer, she knew if she left Myanmar, the junta wouldn’t let her return. She remained in Myanmar.

Her husband agreed that her dedication to her country and people was paramount. He petitioned the Burmese authorities to allow him to visit Suu Kyi one last time, but they rejected his request.

She made another sacrifice by remaining in Myanmar instead of traveling to Norway to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.   She sacrificed the $1.3 million Nobel Prize money to establish a health and education trust for Burmese people.

The wellspring of Suu Kyi’s courage resonates in her own words:

“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day…. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant, or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity.”

Related Video:

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi

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