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Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok grants visa to democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s youngest son, Kim Aris, to visit his mother following her release from house arrest.

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi unveils her vision for her homeland

Posted by arnon_k On November - 19 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Yangon, Myanmar (CNN) — It was stifling hot inside the small, stark headquarters of the National League for Democracy, the party led by freed pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi wore her trademark shirt and a Burmese sarong known as a lyongi, her hair adorned with the flowers that have come to symbolize defiance in her homeland that has been under tyrannical military rule since 1962.

On this day, she also wore a red AIDS ribbon. She had visited patients at an AIDS clinic in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar that was known as Rangoon. Lack of treatment for HIV sufferers remains an unspoken problem in the authoritarian South Asian country.

A new role for Aung San Suu Kyi?

Suu Kyi has been free for almost a week after spending 15 of the past 21 years in detention.

Her outward appearance did not give away the woman who had endured the hardship of confinement. She looked young for her 65 years and said she maintained her sanity through meditation.

But the lines on her face were borne from sorrow.

From the grief that a woman feels when she is unable to see her husband one last time before his death. The grief of a woman who has tried for more than two decades to bring change to her homeland.

The daughter of a Burmese independence hero, Suu Kyi was quickly embraced as a leader in the late 1980s after she returned home to be with her ailing mother. The National League for Democracy won the 1990 elections by a landslide but the regime did not recognize the results.

She had been detained for that vote just as she was for the last election on November 14, which was criticized in all corners as being a sham. She said she doesn’t believe the new assembly will be accountable to the people.

“One of the reasons why we decided not to take part in the elections was precisely because we didn’t believe that there was going to be any major change.”

With memories of a Nobel Peace Prize awarded her two decades ago, she remains optimistic that with the help of her followers, she can still exact reform. She said she was pleased to see so many younger people had joined her movement. She was uplifted by their fresh energy, ebullience.

And, she was eager to hear about all the changes that have taken place in the world during her time out of the public eye, especially about technological advances. Smart phones, Skype, Facebook, Twitter.

She even liked her own dogged campaign for change to the IT revolution.

“The IT revolution has meant tremendous changes, and significant changes for the whole world, so what we mean is enough change within the country to make people feel like they’ve got on to a new and better state, and that’s what I meant by revolution,” she said of her efforts.

She said she envisions a Myanmar — which she and others opposed to the regime call by its former name of Burma — where progress goes hand in hand with accountability and where the citizens feel empowered legally and constitutionally to shape the course of its future.

“I want the people to be more empowered and I want them to feel more empowered,” Suu Kyi said. “I want them to feel that it is they who will decide what the destiny of the country is; that they will have the proper means to shape the destiny of the country.”

She struck a conciliatory note with Myanmar’s generals but did not excuse them from accepting responsibility for the nation’s current state — one that is impoverished, underdeveloped and isolated from the global community.

“Of course we’d like economic progress but I think that has to be balanced by what I would think of as accountability. Progress has to go hand in hand with accountability.”

She would like to see the kinds of economic leaps that China made but without other aspects of the communist-ruled country.

“I think we would like more respect for human rights in Burma than at present you can see going on in China,” she said.

She said she was not opposed to the United States engaging in diplomacy with the military junta but qualified her position.

“There are lot of people who say that now that the U.S. has decided to engage with the military regime, they have turned their back on us. I don’t think like that.”

I think engagement is a good thing. But I don’t want them to go into engagement wearing rose-colored glasses. I want them to be very practical about it.”

The other side of the reform coin involves dialog with the generals.

Perhaps the military leaders, she said, have not engaged in conversation because “you don’t have dialogue in the military. You have commands.”

“I think perhaps some of them don’t quite understand what we mean by dialogue,” she said. “What we mean by dialogue is: ‘let’s talk to each other. We’ll tell you what we want. You tell us what you want. We come to some sort of compromise. I don’t think this kind of exchange is something with which the military, in general, are familiar and I think that has been our greatest problem.”

But in the give-and-take with the junta, there is one area, she said, in which she will not compromise.

“The release of political prisoners certainly,” she said.

“And I don’t think actually if we get to the negotiating table, the military will say we don’t believe in the release of political prisoners. I don’t think it works like that. That’s one of my top priorities.”

She knows that for now, the junta has let her be. Not that they’ve changed their opinion of her, but maybe, they are waiting to see how things unfold.

But Suu Kyi lives every day with the thought that at any moment, she could be arrested again.

“It’s always a possibility,” she said. “After all they’ve arrested me several times in the past.”

But she said, she can’t dwell on that. She has a lot of work to do.

Suu Kyi calls for dialogue with Myanmar government

Posted by arnon_k On November - 16 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Yangon, Myanmar (CNN) — Freed activist Aung San Suu Kyi pledged Monday to keep working toward restoring democracy and improving human rights in Myanmar, saying she is not concerned about being detained again in the future.

“Actually, I don’t think about it,” Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest Saturday, said in her first comments to CNN. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest for her dogged opposition to authoritarian rule in Myanmar — which she calls by its former name, Burma.

“I may be detained again,” Suu Kyi said, noting she’s been in and out of house arrest over the last two decades. “I just do what I can do at the moment,” she said.

“We have to work together,” she said. “That is the main message. Those inside the country have to work together and also those supporters outside.”
Suu Kyi had much the same message for her supporters Sunday, telling them in a speech, “I’m not going to be able to do it alone. You’ve got to do it with me. One person alone can’t do anything as important as bringing change and democracy to a country.”

“We would like to form a network of people working for democracy,” she told CNN Monday, and said she would like to open a dialogue with “those who are in a position to do something, to change the situation in Burma for the better.”

She said she has had no contact with Gen. Than Shwe, Myanmar’s top military leader and head of state. Asked what she would say to him, she said, “I think what we are looking for is dialogue, so I’m not just thinking about what I have to say to him. I think what we have to think about is what we have to say to each other.”

She said she does not know what issues Shwe might want to bring up, but said she would like to discuss issues “relevant to the interests of Burma’s people.”
On the country’s recent elections, she said her National League for Democracy party, although it played no role in the vote, is going to look into allegations of vote-rigging and other activities. She said that report could be provided to countries such as Vietnam who endorsed the balloting, and “they can study the report and decide for themselves how free and fair those elections were.”

The probe will be done because of the “rule of law” and not because the party has anything to gain or lose, she said.

Asked whether Myanmar’s current ruling military junta should remain in place, Suu Kyi said, “This is something that we have to discuss.” She said she wants to know more about how citizens feel regarding the elections, find out more about sanctions and hear from those who imposed the sanctions.

“We have to review the situation from time to time,” she said. “This is something that we’ve done over the years, and we’re going to do it again.”
Suu Kyi has not seen her children in about a decade. Asked if that will change soon, she said she wasn’t sure, adding that her youngest son is in Bangkok, Thailand, awaiting a visa but had not yet been given one. She said she recently spoke with him — “My conversations with my sons are always nice.”
She also has grandchildren. She told CNN she met her oldest grandson about 10 years ago, “when he was very small.”

She said she has no current plans to travel outside Myanmar, though she hopes to travel within its borders. She said she likely will not leave the country before seeing “significant progress in the way of democratic practices and human rights.”

On how she spent her time while under house arrest, she said she stayed busy. “There were lots of things I had to take care of,” she said. Suu Kyi said she listened to the radio for hours every day to stay in touch with the outside world and did a lot of reading. She was able to meet people from the outside, such as her attorneys and her doctors, she said. “There were never really enough hours in the day,” she said. “I know that sounds strange.”

A Facebook page supporting Suu Kyi has more than 250,000 fans. Asked whether she plans to join Facebook or Twitter, Suu Kyi said, “I was discussing this with some of the young people,” who told her that most youths like Facebook because it’s easier for them. She said she has not yet decided whether to join Facebook, Twitter — or both.

She said she would rather consider the Facebook support as just that, support for her work, rather than popularity.

She noted that a number of political prisoners remain detained in Myanmar, and pleaded with the outside world not to forget them, saying that what they have to go through is “much worse” than her experience on house arrest. She also thanked those across the globe for supporting her.

Suu Kyi tells supporters to work with her for change

Posted by arnon_k On November - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Freed democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi told her supporters Sunday that she needs their help in her efforts to bring change to Myanmar.

“I’m not going to be able to do it alone,” Suu Kyi said. “You’ve got to do it with me. One person alone can’t do anything as important as bringing change and democracy to a country.”

She said she was treated well during her years of house arrest by Myanmar’s ruling generals, but said the country needs to return to the rule of law.

“I am for national reconciliation, I am for dialogue … whatever authority I have, I would like to use toward that end. And I hope the people will support me,” she said, speaking to reporters at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer cynical over release

The country’s ruling military junta freed Suu Kyi from house arrest Saturday to a throng of joyous supporters who rushed toward her house once the gates were opened. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient had spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest for her dogged opposition to authoritarian rule in the nation formerly known as Burma.

“They have treated me well on a personal basis. But they have not acted in accordance with the rule [of law]. And that I shall always fight against. Because I don’t think any country can survive as a prosperous and dignified nation unless there is rule of law,” she said Sunday. “The people cannot have security unless there is rule of law. And I believe my treatment and that of all prisoners is not within the norms of justice, but that does not mean that I have been ill treated personally.”

Recently, Suu Kyi had little outside human contact except for two maids and visits from her doctor. Sometimes, she spoke to supporters over the wall of her compound.

A group of fellow Nobel Peace laureates, gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, rejoiced at Suu Kyi’s release, former South African President F.W. De Klerk said Saturday.

“I am speaking to you from Hiroshima where I and a number of other Nobel Peace Laureate are gathered for a conference on the issue of nuclear weapons,” De Klerk said. “And all of us are delighted to hear the news. We think it’s wonderful news. We are glad that [Suu Kyi’s release] appears to be without any condition. We sincerely hope that her release will bring about four steps forward for the issue of democracy in Burma.”