November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi is Free!

‎”Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’—grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.” ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — Burma’s democratically-elected Prime Minister, Nobel Peace laureate, and socially-engaged Buddhist icon who has spent fifteen of the last twenty years under house arrest — has just been released from her latest house arrest.

Like so many others, I’m very happy about her release today — she’s one of the truest heroes on this planet, and her freedom is indeed cause for celebration. That said, we should also all bear in mind that there is still so much that needs to happen for her dreams of Burma to be realized. There is so much work yet to do, and I suspect that’s going to be one of the first things that “the Lady” devotes her time to making crystal clear to the international community. Now is the time to support the work of the US Campaign for Burma at http://www.uscampaignforburma.org. As they were quick to note in a press release earlier this morning:

The U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), Washington DC-based organization campaigning for freedom, justice and democracy in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, today wholeheartedly welcomes the release of Burma’s democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from her latest illegal detention that lasted nearly seven years and six months. However no congratulations to Burma’s military regime are in order. “This is a rare moment for the people of Burma to enjoy while they all are suffering horrific human rights abuses everyday by the military regime and its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Now, our leader is back,” said Aung Din, a colleague of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during the 1988 popular democracy uprising and Executive Director of USCB.

“As she is released, her safety and possible re-arrest become major concerns”, Aung Din continues. According to various sources from Burma, the military authorities have recruited some people with criminal records in Rangoon with a plan to attack her if she continues to challenge the regime and its implementation of the sham election results. She had previously been attacked by the pro-regime militia, notoriously known as “Swan-Arr-Shin” (Power Rangers) in the past several times, a militia organized and supported by the Union Solidarity and Development Association, which recently transformed into the USDP. The USDP claimed that it won a landslide victory in the recent elections, which was the result of widespread manipulation, fraud, cheating, and threats employed by the military regime, its election commission, and the USDP together. The returning of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into politics is a serious threat to the regime and the USDP.

She was also released from detention before, only to be re-arrested. She was under house arrest for six years from July 1989 to July 1995. She was again arrested and detained for 18 months from September 21, 2000 to May 6, 2002. On May 30, 2003, she and her party members were brutally attacked by the regime’s militias near Depayin Township in Middle Burma. Scores of her party members were killed, and she was detained again until today. She spent more than 15 years under detention between 1989 and 2010. Although the regime has repeatedly attempted to attack, assassinate and isolate her from the public, her popularity remains highest among the public as the people admire her as the one and only national leader who can bring freedom, justice and democracy to their country.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release comes one week after the regime orchestrated its election victory. “Her release is a hollow gesture to appease the regime’s detractors, not a sign of political reform,” Aung Din said. “The international community needs to continue to pressure the regime to secure her safety, prevent her re-arrest as well as demand the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining 2,200 political prisoners”.

Burma is now on the verge of chaos as the military regime completed its sham elections on November 7th with an aim to install a permanent military dictatorship in the country under the disguise of a so-called civilian government. Widespread fraud, voter intimidation, cheating, and irregularities were reported throughout the country. It is clear that the authorities, election commission and the regime’s party the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) worked together to secure victories for their USDP candidates. While the ‘official’ election results have not been announced, USDP leaders already claimed that their party won over 80% of the contested seats, about 60% of the total. Combined with 25% of the seats which will be appointed by the Commander in Chief, the military and its proxy party USDP will control over 85% of the seats in the Parliaments (both national and state/regional levels), and they will crush any voices from the so-called opposition MPs.

I would also encourage you all to join Amnesty International in their call for freedom for all prisoners of conscience in Burma.

Despite all the obstacles ahead, I should say that it’s important too to enjoy this moment of victory. I mean, goodness gracious, if the below footage doesn’t bring a smile to the lips and a tear to the eye, I don’t know what will…


“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. 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. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.

“The wellspring of courage and endurance in the face of unbridled power is generally a firm belief in the sanctity of ethical principles combined with a historical sense that despite all setbacks the condition of man is set on an ultimate course for both spiritual and material advancement. It is his capacity for self-improvement and self-redemption which most distinguishes man from the mere brute. At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man’s vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

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