Aung San Suu Kyi challenges Burma junta to begin journey towards reform

Aung San Suu Kyi today reached out to the generals who jailed her, saying she wants direct talks with the military's leaders in the interests of "national reconciliation".

Aung San Suu Kyi has emerged from seven years' house arrest, and incarceration at the junta's hands for 15 of the past 21 years, insisting she bears no grudge against her country's military regime. She has urged reconciliation and unity for Burma.

She has hinted, too, that she may be willing to soften her stance in favour of international sanctions against Burma's military junta, but insisted that true progress could not be made until all of the country's 2,100 political prisoners were freed.

Despite her historic release at the weekend, and the euphoria that has enveloped Burma in its aftermath, concerns remain that this could be a false dawn for the country and not a "Mandela moment" that signals the start of genuine political reform.

Today, speaking publicly for the first time since her release on Saturday, Aung San Suu Kyi told supporters she needed their support to transform the country. "I think we all have to work together. I wish to work in unison with the people of Burma," she said. She stressed she alone could not lead the country to democracy after 50 years of military rule.

"I don't believe in one person's influence and authority to move a country forward," she said. "One person alone cannot do something as important as bringing democracy to a country."

More than 10,000 supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing Aung San Suu Kyi's image or with photographs of her pinned to their clothes, rallied outside the headquarters of her now banned political party, the National League for Democracy, cramming Shwegondine Road in central Rangoon to listen to her speak.

Many held up signs saying "We love Suu". In response she lifted a handwritten sign saying "I love the public, too".

Aung San Suu Kyi said she had a message for the regime's senior general, Than Shwe: "Let's speak to each other directly." She added: "I am for national reconciliation. I am for dialogue." The pair last met in secret talks in 2002 at the encouragement of the United Nations, just months before the junta arrested her again.

There has been no word from Burma's jungle capital, Nay Pi Daw, on whether the regime's leaders wish to meet her, and there are doubts over the junta's commitment to reform.

Dr Maung Zarni, a Burma research fellow at the London School of Economics, said the junta had released political prisoners before, usually to win favour internationally, but had rearrested them when it felt the need to reassert control. "We should not fool ourselves to think that her release signals the desire on the part of the regime towards democratisation, dialogue and reconciliation," Zarni said.

"Her release is simply a tactical move. The regime is still holding over 2,100 prisoners of conscience … many serving ridiculously lengthy prison sentences. They must all be freed if we are to be convinced of the regime's desire towards reconciliation."

Burma's generals have jailed Aung San Suu Kyi three times in the past two decades, either arbitrarily or on dubious charges, and Zarni said they could be moved to do so again if they felt her near-universal popularity was weakening their grip on power.

But asked if she feared being imprisoned again, Aung San Suu Kyi was deliberately coy. "I do not think I am threatening, do you?" the 65-year-old grandmother said.

"Popularity is something that comes and goes. I don't think anybody should feel threatened by it. But I know that there's always the possibility that I might be rearrested. It's not something that I particularly wish for, because if you're placed under arrest, you can't work as much as you can when you're not under arrest."

Others cautiously believe the junta's move could mark the beginning of genuine reform. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), which counts Burma as a member but which the west has accused of not doing enough to push for change there, welcomed the release. "I'm very, very relieved and hope that this will contribute to true national reconciliation," said the secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan.

Aung San Suu Kyi also met a corps of diplomats today, including representatives from Britain, the European Union and Asean countries.

Later, during a wide-ranging press conference, Aung San Suu Kyi said that while during her years of imprisonment she "felt free within myself", she would not rest until all of Burma's political prisoners were released unconditionally. "If my people are not free, how can you say I am free?" she said. "We are none of us free."

Aung San Suu Kyi has been a strong supporter of trade sanctions, which have isolated Burma for more than a decade, but appeared to indicate a willingness to reconsider. "This is a time for Burma when we need help," she said. "We need everybody to help in this venture. Western nations, eastern nations, all nations."

Her previous spells of liberty have come with conditions attached by the military, limiting her movements and with whom she could meet, but the military had not imposed any restrictions on her this time, she said.

Her first formal act is likely to be a response to last weekend's elections, which were marred by reports of voter intimidation, bribery and stuffed ballot boxes. The election was won overwhelmingly by the junta's party. Aung San Suu Kyi was banned from participating and her party urged a boycott, resulting in a poor voter turnout. An NLD committee is set to investigate all complaints independently. "From what I have heard there are many, many questions about the fairness of the election and there are many, many allegations of vote rigging and so on," she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi said today she was enjoying her freedom, particularly the chance to meet and talk to people. "I have been listening to the radio for six years," she said. "I think I'd like to listen to some real human voices."

She said she had not had a chance to see very much of the outside world, "but I have noticed that a lot of people have mobile phones".

She used a mobile for the first time on Sunday to call her son Kim, who is in Bangkok, and whom she hasn't seen for nearly a decade. She has never met her grandchildren.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent her first afternoon of freedom at Rangoon's Shwedagon pagoda, then attended the funeral of an NLD colleague.

Aung San Suu Kyi release brings joy, tears – and new hope for Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi, the international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression, walked to freedom today after the military regime in Burma released her from house arrest.

The defiant and dignified Aung San Suu Kyi, who is known among her supporters as "The Lady", appeared in front of a weeping and cheering crowd who had rushed to her house in Rangoon after the government barricades were swept away.

Jubilation was tempered, however, by the reality that Burma is still in the grip of the generals who have run the country since overthrowing the democratically elected government more than 20 years ago and who cemented their hold last week in an orchestrated election.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1991, acknowledged the crowds and urged them to work together. "I am so glad to see so many people here and so happy to be free," she said, standing on a stool and looking over the gate of the house where she had been confined for 15 of the last 21 years.

"There is a time to be quiet and a time to talk. People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal."

After just 10 minutes outside, she returned to the home that is no longer her prison. Thousands of her supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing her image alongside the words "We stand by Aung San Suu Kyi", stayed outside for several hours.

Aung San Suu Kyi emerged later, thanking her supporters, but urging them to go home to sleep.

While her term of detention has technically finished, it was not immediately clear how long that respite would last. During previous brief spells of freedom she has railed against, and defied, the conditions restricting where she could go – banning her from leaving Rangoon, for instance – and who she could meet.

The government says that this time her freedom will not be restricted. "She is completely free – there are no conditions at all," an unnamed senior government official was quoted as saying. But Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters fear her freedom may again be short-lived, and that the generals will seek to rearrest her on some technical infringement.

A defiant Aung San Suu Kyi, meanwhile, clearly intends to reimpose her leadership on Burma's splintered National League for Democracy (NLD). She promised to reveal her plans tomorrow at the headquarters of the NLD, a sign to the regime that she intends to fight on for democracy.

Her release was welcomed around the world, not least by her late husband's family in Britain. It is understood that she was able to speak on the phone to her youngest son, Kim, who is currently in Bangkok. She has not seen her two sons for 10 years, and Kim this week failed again in his attempt to get a visa to travel to Burma. He has two children whom Aung San Suu Kyi has never met.

Today was a "happy day", said Aung San Suu Kyi's British brother-in-law, Adrian Phillips. "We are obviously very pleased if it means we can contact her again after so many years of silence," Phillips said.

"The last time I spoke to her was when her husband [Michael Aris] died in 1999. There are all sorts of family matters that we haven't been able to talk to her about. She has a granddaughter, Jasmine, who she has never seen."

In the UK, David Cameron said Aung San Suu Kyi's release had been long overdue. The prime minister added: "Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom of speech, democracy and human rights."

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said: "Aung San Suu Kyi's arbitrary detention for most of the past 20 years has been deeply unjust. Her fortitude in the face of this outrage has been inspirational.

"She must now be allowed to assume a role of her choosing in the political life of her country without further hindrance or restriction.

"Last week's sham elections will not bring peace and prosperity to Burma. The regime now needs to release the other 2,100 political prisoners and begin a genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and all opposition and ethnic groups. These remain the crucial first steps to solving Burma's many problems and addressing the pressing needs of its people."

Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, said: "There will be joy round the world at the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's most renowned and courageous prisoner of conscience."

President Barack Obama described the woman who has spent most of the past two decades almost cut off from the world, as a hero.

"She is a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world," he said

Fellow Nobel laureates, meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, to campaign against nuclear weapons, welcomed her release. "For years we have been asking… for her release," FW de Klerk, the former president of South Africa, said. "We welcome it, and we hope it will last, and there won't be a regression of any nature."

Burmese state media last night attributed Aung San Suu Kyi's release to good conduct. "Aung San Suu Kyi behaved well according to the regulations during the period she was under a suspended sentence, so she was allowed to be released," government-run TV reported.

The report noted that Aung San Suu Kyi was "the daughter of the leader General Aung San who gave his life for Myanmar's [Burma's] independence". It also expressed a desire "not to hold a grudge against each other".

Aung San Suu Kyi was first imprisoned by Burma's military regime in June 1989. Since then, she has spent more than 15 years in secret detention, jail and under house arrest.

Her latest period of incarceration, her third, began in 2003. This final stretch of imprisonment was an 18-month sentence for having "received" an unauthorised visitor when an eccentric well-wisher, American John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her house in the middle of the night.


Dear Maung,

Amazing! In just two weeks, we got 32 Senators to call for the US to support a UN Commission of Inquiry into the military regime's crimes against humanity. This was made possible by your phone calls to your Senators' offices. This is a monumental step forward in our campaign to hold Burma's Generals accountable for their crimes against humanity and war crimes.

See if your Senator was one of the 32 here.

While we continue to pressure our government on behalf of the people of Burma, the struggle in Burma continues. Just this week the regime raided a number of Karen villages sending even more villagers on the run. We ask President Obama and Secretary Clinton to hear these villagers and work together with the international community to bring Burma's generals committing these crimes to justice.

We are going to need your help to make sure that the Obama administration listens to these Senators and to the growing voices around the world calling for a Commission of Inquiry on Burma. We at U.S. Campaign for Burma will remain steadfast in this goal.


Aung Din, Jen, Nadi and Mike


Letter to Secretary of State Clinton – Support a UN-led Commission of Inquiry on Burma

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

We write to urge you to support the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether crimes against humanity and war crimes took place in Burma. While your administration continues along a path of sanctions and pragmatic engagement with Burma, we believe that such a commission will help convince Burma’s military regime that we are serious about our commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for the people of Burma.

At the 13th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights Situation in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, released his latest report and urged the United Nations “to consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes” in Burma.

The Special Rapporteur argued that: “[g]iven the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations in Myanmar over a period of many years, and the lack of accountability, there is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military, and judiciary at all levels.” Mr. Quintana further stated that “[a]ccording to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Statue of the International Criminal Court.”

We appreciate the comments made by Douglas Griffiths, US Charge d’Affaires at US Mission to the UN in Geneva, in response to the report that “[t]his recommendation serves to underscore the seriousness of the human rights problems in the country and the pressing need for the international community to find an effective way to address challenges there.”

Indeed, a number of reports have documented a consistent pattern of human rights abuses by the regime in Burma which must be addressed: the use of child soldiers, the destruction of villages and the displacement of ethnic minorities, the use of rape as a weapon of war, extrajudicial killings, forced relocation, and forced labor.

These abuses have been exacerbated by the regime’s intention to hold elections in 2010 based on a constitution which disallows the full participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, political prisoners, religious clergy and ethnic nationalities.

As President Obama stated in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma — there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.” Both the Australian and British governments have both stated their support for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Burma, and we must stand together with them and the people of Burma.

We appreciate your attention to this request and we look forward to hearing from you.


Senator Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Boxer (D-CA)
Senator Gregg (R-NH)
Senator Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Bingaman (D-NM)
Senator Wyden (D-OR)
Senator Udall (D-CO)
Senator Cardin (D-MD)
Senator Brownback (R-KS)
Senator Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Senator Brown (D-OH)
Senator Lieberman (ID-CT)
Senator Mikulski (D-MD)
Senator Gillibrand (D-NY)
Senator Casey (D-PA)
Senator Bennet (D-CO)
Senator Voinovich (R-OH)
Senator Whitehouse (D-RI)
Senator Schumer (D-NY)
Senator Feingold (D-WI)
Senator Collins (R-ME)
Senator Sanders (I-VT)
Senator Hagan (D-NC)
Senator Harkin (D-IA)
Senator Murray (D-WA)
Senator Franken (D-MN)
Senator Burr (R-NC)
Senator Burris (D-IL)
Senator Klobuchar (D-MN)
Senator Leahy (D-VT)
Senator Menendez (D-NJ)

Message from Senator Durbin

Dear Mr. Win:

Thank you for your message about human rights abuses in Burma and Senate Joint Resolution 29 (S.J. Res. 29). I appreciate hearing from you and share your concerns about this situation.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Burma since 1988. In 2003, Congress passed the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act, which I cosponsored. This measure imposes a prohibition on the importation of any goods from Burma until its government makes significant progress toward democracy and respect for human rights. The Act also freezes the U.S. assets of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), prohibits SPDC members and supporters from entering the United States, and requires that U.S. representatives to international financial institutions oppose aid to Burma.

Congress annually votes to reauthorize these sanctions and this year I am, again, a cosponsor. Unfortunately, despite these sanctions, the human rights record of the Burmese regime remains dismal.

China and India have signed deals with the SPDC for substantial purchases of natural gas, and Burma reportedly also earns $1-2 billion annually from the export of illegal drugs. While other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have grown more critical of the SPDC, these two countries still do not support sanctions. China has provided $2 billion in military aid to Burma since the early 1990s, in addition to $200 million each year in economic aid. There also have been reports of military cooperation between Burma and North Korea.

According to the United Nations (U.N.), more than 3,000 Burmese villages have been destroyed by the ruling military junta in an ethnic cleansing campaign. One million refugees have fled the country and an additional 500,000 remain internally displaced. The junta has ignored every ceasefire agreement and continues to attack civilians, use rape as a weapon of war, and conscript children into slave labor. Burma is now home to at least 70,000 child soldiers - more than in any other nation. The junta is holding more than 1,300 political prisoners in jail and has continued the house arrest of Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The public health situation in Burma also is deteriorating because of the regime's interference with the delivery of humanitarian aid and medicines. In April 2007, I joined other senators in sending a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing concern about the situation in Burma and asking him to take a more active role in resolving this problem.

As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, I am committed to the vision of a world in which the human rights of all are respected. I am monitoring the situation in Burma closely, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma and around the world.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator



Some are hoping that the year 2010 will see a significant change in Burma and people will be freed from the life of slavery under military regime because the regime has promised another free and fair elections in the country. In fact, the regime has failed to recognize the 1990 nationwide elections in which the NLD Party won a landslide victory which is internationally recognized. After refusing to handover power to the winning party the generals have accumulated their wealth within two decades. All the income realized from selling natural resources such as gem and jade and natural gas to foreign countries went into their pockets and the country itself has insufficient electrical power supply for the industries as well as for public use. People have to pay more taxes and receive power supplies only on a quota basis. The small business as well as industries have to depend on electrical generators run by diesel oil of which prices are going high all the time. The inflation is soaring high. Though the top brass become millionaires with the ill-gotten money people and country cannot climb out of the abyss of poverty. And now the regime is promising again a free and fair election as the international pressure to reform economic and politics of the country is increasing. Who will believe their words when people learn that the regime has recently signed a contract with Russia to buy over twenty MIG 29s just to (unnecessarily) expand and modernize its Army. The regime has also dug a total of 80 underground tunnels at a cost of billion of dollars with the assistance of North Korean engineers. The purpose of digging underground tunnels is none other than fortifying their hideout with a hysteria ( of fear) believing that some super powers will wage aerial attacks on their military headquarters. One of the reasons the regime and its cronies moved to Pyinmana area where they established a new city is none other than hiding out from the truth they have never accepted. This prove that they are not real soldiers who protect the interest of their people and country. The real soldier never afraid to die. They never hide from the truth and they are ready to give their lives and will fight like a soldier. What the regime doing is a scheme to protect for themselves as the way cowards do. Anyhow, what a waste. With this money it can feed the increasing people who have no way to get out of the vicious cycle of starvation and help them out in rebuilding their lives. Meanwhile, the North Korean and the mily. regime is secretly planning to build a nuclear bomb and at present the regime is trying to assault one of the insurgent groups of the country with Biological weapons bought from N. Korea. The insurgent group is also preparing for the war that is about to come. They are now busy with buying anti-gas masks from a neighboring country, according to a reliable news source.
One of the awful news is that a newly formed political party that is preparing to participate in the 2010 elections was threaten and its members were beaten by Union Solidarity and Development Association's members, a regime-supported gang that carried out an attempt to assassinate the noble laureate and democracy icon of Burma, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, in 2003. This gang is supposed to be a social faction that is meant for helping people but on the contrary the gang is used by the regime to harass and threatening NLD members. Sometimes, these unruly thugs go too far that they even eliminate the unwanted persons by the regime. But the order to kill is given by a high-ranking person of USDA possibly the Chairman of USDA who is also the head of the regime Senior General Than Shwe. Meanwhile, the Police General has directed to his subordinates to monitor every and each movement of NLD members. It's been many years that thousands of political prisoner are still behind bars though the Secretary General of the United Nations, some heads of super power and world communities have constantly requested the regime to release the political prisoners immediately. Daw Aung San Su Kyi is also still under house arrest. The authority has not even permitted the opposition leader to renovate her own house. If this trivial matter cannot be straighten out, I wonder how will the regime going to sponsor a free and fair nationwide elections. These aspects indicate that the attitude of mily. regime has not changed and they will eat again their words. No doubt. So, I see no good sign for the year 2010. People who really love peace and democracy should be very careful especially in this year. This year may be a decisive year for both the light and dark forces. The bottom line is "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst". Happy New Year! to everyone who is in the same boat with us sailing to our destination, a peaceful place called "the land of democracy". ( MMKW)

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First, through a concerted, non-violent protest by all citizens of the country at home and international fora. If it is responded by repression and harsher measures, then, through an armed revolution. Such moves are sure to be supported by all democratic and peace loving countries of the world. (modest)

(The question for above answer was asked by Min Myo Naing using another name in June of 2006.)


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An exiled journalist from Burma, I have taken refuge in the United States with my family thanks to CPJ in New York, UNHCR (Cambodia) and the States Department. I was detained for one and a half year in 1969 for burning effigy of the late dictator Ne Win in the Rangoon University campus during SEA Games Strike. I was also actively participated in 8888 nationwide uprising by taking charge in publishing The Guardian Daily as independent newspaper for 22 days before I resigned from the newspaper as Assistant Editor in September,1988. Fortunately, I was escaped from arresting by the military regime. In 1990, I left for Bangkok where I had an assignment to translate the "Outrage: Burma's Struggle for Democracy". The book was originally written by Bertil Lintner, a Swedish journalist. I fled my country in December 2005 after my life was threatened by the military intelligence service for involving in political movements and had given assistance to foreign journalists who came to Burma. I am still active with the movement for restoring democracy in Burma.