Don’t forget Aung San Suu Kyi
This is a house of arrest.
For 13 years Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader has been imprisoned here having been refused the right to say goodbye to her dead husband or to meet with her two sons.
One of 2000 political prisoners currently being held by a military dictatorship in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi recently endured a three month trial, following the arrival of an American who swam into her home uninvited, that ruled she will remain detained here for a further 18 months.
And of all the things that contribute to her incomparable situation it’s this house that chills me the most.
It could be the way the dirt and mould have started to distort the colonial plaster work or the disorientated, overgrown garden that some reports suggest has became a haven for poisonous snakes.
Or maybe it’s because I can imagine how beautiful the house would have been. With the gentle arches of the roofline, the airiness of the generous rooms and the incredible views you’d have looking down the river
But I think it’s more to do with the feeling it stirs of a place that’s started to be eerily forgotten.
Isolated, silenced and neglected. It’s crumbling and ghostly façade is grossly at odds with the poised and determined woman it imprisons.
And Aung San Suu Kyi should not be forgotten.
Oxford educated, she is the daughter of General Aung San, commander of the Burma Independence Army who was assassinated in 1947 and Daw Khin Kyi a former nurse who became a prominent public figure after her husband’s death
In 1972 she married British academic Michael Aris, then a tutor for the royal family of Bhutan and they had two sons, both born in England.
Suu Kyi’s battle for Burma began after the death of her mother in 1988 when she vowed to serve the people of Burma, just as her parents had done.
A few months later General Ne Win, the military dictator of Burma since 1962 resigned triggering enormous political upheaval.
Mass public uprisings were suppressed by the military with large scale violence, killing thousands of people.
Suu Kyi responded by writing an open letter to the government pleading for an independent committee and national election.
She also made several public speeches to large audiences throughout the country and openly discouraged tourists and international business trade with Burma until the government responded.
Her actions were met with further protest and violence from the military and in 1989 she was placed under house arrest, where she has remained for the past 13 years.
Yet despite her imprisonment Suu Kyi has never forgotten to fight for Burma.
From this house in Yangon she won 82 per cent of the national vote in the 1990 elections.
And in 1991 she became the recipient of the Noble Peace Prize and donated the $1.3 million prize money to the development of a health program for the Burmese people.
A Times Online article has depicted daily life for Suu Kyi as one of extraordinary solitude. With no access to telephone, radio or television she is reported to spend her days meditating, reading, writing and playing the piano.
Before her recent sentencing she had been due for release on May 27 2009.
Jared Genser, her American attorney told the Washington Post that he believes the Burmese authorities are fearful of Suu Kyi’s popularity and influence and would have used the event as an excuse to detain her further.
A BBC report claims international response to Suu Kyi’s latest sentencing is mixed.
While President Obama has spoken out in outrage and Britain and America are said to be discussing further trade and arms embargo, many believe this will have little effect.
Russia and China are considered unlikely to support such a move.
And back in Burma the response has also been a little indifferent. While most people expect Suu Kyi to challenge the verdict, many believe this sentencing has failed to move people the way it has in the past.
As Zaw Naing, a local guard reported to a journalist on the ground in Yangon:
“People are glad that she (Suu Kyi) is at home… But things will be quiet again after one week as our people have to worry about their own lives. It is more important than politics,” he said.
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