Mon 15 Nov 2010
Filed under: Opinion,Other
On Nov. 13 when Aung San Suu Kyi was released, the world celebrated, in contrast to Nov. 7 when the ruling junta held its election, and the world bemoaned the sham election.
Kyaw Zwa Moe is managing editor of the Irrawaddy magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suu Kyi’s release has stirred Burma’s stagnant political waters and overnight boosted the morale of the Burmese people.
After her father, national leader Aung San, was assassinated in 1947, no one could unite the Burmese people and capture their imagination. But since Suu Kyi return to Burma, she has taken up her father’s mantle and wherever she appears crowds gather.
On Friday, one day before her release, thousands of people gathered in front of her house to greet her. On Saturday, they came back early in the morning and waited patiently until about 5 p.m. when she was finally released, and she emerged to greet her supporters at the gate of her lakeside compound.
Again, on Sunday tens of thousands gathered when she made her fist public speech at the headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy, despite the fact that they might become targets of the oppressive security forces. When she entered politics in 1988, at her fist appearance she drew more than a hundred thousand people at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.
“Do not lose your heart,” the 65-year-old pro-democracy leader told the crowd at noon on Sunday. “We all have to keep trying to win what we want.” Again, she inspired the crowd, but her mission is now long overdue.
Her release from house arrest was not an act of kindness or generosity. Her sentence simply expired, and the generals believe that they have a “mandate” after their proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, won in a landslide. Than Shwe must believe that her release will have little affect now that his party will control the new parliament.
But he may be wrong. In her Sunday speech, Suu Kyi stressed that everyone must work for national reconciliation. However, the generals have never been interested in reconciliation. They only want their power consolidated.
Though her speech didn’t go into policy or strategy details on how she might work to move democracy forward, Suu Kyi conveyed a determined and flexible image.
“I will not only work with my party,” she said. “I want to work with all the people and all pro-democracy forces. We will also work with all people across the world who support and sympathize with us.”
Burma has several critical issues waiting for her attention, such as the release of all political prisoners, ethnic conflicts, the unjust 2008 Constitution, and the vote rigging in the election.
However, it’s certain the military regime will never allow her to work with leaders of political and ethnic parties. That was one of the main reasons she was imprisoned for 15 of the past 21 years. If she reorganizes the NLD and tries to organize other democracy forces, she will only become a target again and her days of freedom will be numbered.
On top of that, don’t forget that she was arrested in 2003 after her motorcade was ambushed by junta thugs in Depayin in Upper Burma. That attack was an assassination attempt. If she again becomes a political threat, the current military government won’t be reluctant to orchestrate a Depayin-style ambush again.
When asked about her security during a press conference after her speech, she said that she doesn’t think about her personal security, but, like all other citizens, her security depends on the authorities. Senior NLD leaders are obviously concerned about security.
“After the Depayin incident, we saw that there had been an attempt to assassinate her,” said Win Tin, a prominent NLD leader. Citing the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as an example, he added: “As a political leader who always deals with the people, she can be assassinated by a killer who is hiding in the crowd at any time.”
People might think such thoughts are too pessimistic, particularly on the second day of her release. But who knows? We have witnessed the oppressive heartlessness of the generals in the 2007 attack on monks.
In spite of the past and the dangers of the future, Suu Kyi said she doesn’t bare any grudge against the junta. “I am willing to talk to Snr-Gen Than Shwe,” she said at the press conference. “It would be great if I can talk about whatever I want to.”
But any talk or dialogue between her and the generals is simply wishful dreaming. To reach that position, she would have to marshal a powerful coalition of pro-democracy forces, and the people would have to be actively behind her.
And that state of affairs is exactly what would cause the generals to strike back against her, or put her under arrest once again.
But for now, many Burmese have regained their true leader. The country’s politics will pick up under her leadership. It’s a new beginning in a long, unfinished struggle.