Saturday, November 13, 2010

"So Much To Tell You": Aung San Suu Kyi Freed

A Young Suu Kyi
Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed from house arrest, but the real test of her freedom will be whether the junta allows her to travel around the country meeting with her supporters. She's been locked up for 15 of the last 21 years and has been released twice before already. She could easily be detained again if the junta feels threatened, regardless of their expressed goodwill.

But for now, the mood is one of rejoicing. She greeted a throng of supporters last night when she was officially freed and then delivered an impassioned speech today encouraging them. “Democracy is when the people keep a government in check,” she said. “I will accept the people keeping me in check.” As one woman said, “I’m happier than if I won the lottery. But this is just the beginning, not the end. The political prisoners are still in jail. Everyone needs to be released!”

Kyaiktiyo Paya
When Yuko and I traveled there in 2008, it was just months after the "Saffron Revolution" that had brought thousands of monks into the streets to protest the country's brutal military regime. Deciding whether or not to visit Myanmar/Burma, a nation of over 50 million, wasn't easy. Suu Kyi has recommended tourists stay away until "genuine progress towards democratization" is made, while others such as Thant Myint-U, an historian and grandson of former United Nations Secretary General U Thant, have argued for engagement.

Top of Mount Popa
I made my decision after befriending a Burmese student in Hong Kong who had been confined and tortured by the regime. He urged me to go, meet the people and report back about his country. I knew to avoid any organized tours and meet the locals to prevent our money going directly to the junta.

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