News / Asia

    Rangoon Diary: Democracy First on Suu Kyi’s Agenda for Burma

    Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi displays a placard that reads, "I also love the people," to her supporters at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy Party in Yangon, Burma, 14 November 2010
    Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi displays a placard that reads, "I also love the people," to her supporters at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy Party in Yangon, Burma, 14 November 2010

    This is a special report from a journalist inside Rangoon, who has been covering Burma’s political developments for VOA despite the threat of deportation. For safety reasons, the journalist’s identity is being withheld. These are the reporter’s notes from the field.

    On her first full day of freedom, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi wasted no time returning to the political platform that kept her confined for 15 of the past 21 years.

    “I understand what the people want,” she told thousands of supporters in Rangoon Sunday.  The crowd chimed in with her together, “It’s democracy!”

    Aung San Suu Kyi Exclusive Interview with VOA Burmese:

    Speaking outside the headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi condemned last week’s elections, the first in 20 years.

    “Elections should be held in the correct way, and unfair elections do not bring about democracy,” she said. “Democracy does not mean that everybody agrees, but it does mean that you tolerate other people’s opinions.”

    Historic Elections

    A pro-government party is claiming to have won 80 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections, which the military regime says is shifting Burma to civilian rule. The opposition and many voters say the election was rigged.

    “The people should make their voices heard, nothing can happen without the people’s participation, and we have to try, not just here, but all over the world,” the democracy icon told the crowd.



    In the seven years since Aung San Suu Kyi last walked the streets of Burma, the country has changed. Investment from China, Thailand and other Asian nations has brought some disposable income and new technology to the isolated state.

    “I see many people are talking on cell phones, which means our country’s telecommunications has improved,” observed the 65-year-old politician. “Use it! Use it to communicate with one another, try to understand each other. People should be frank with the NLD, and approach us with their problems.”

    She then held up a sign that read, “I also love the people,” returning the affection that has made her the country’s most beloved figure, even when out of sight. She pointed to one man in the crowd, and he was handed a microphone.

    “Now Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, it is time for our release from military dictatorship,” he cried.

    Military Rule

    Military leaders have ruled Burma since 1962. Although the opposition won an overwhelming victory in the country’s last elections in 1990, the military annulled that vote, keeping a firm grip on power. Few Burmese believe that Aung San Suu Kyi’s release signifies the military’s desire for real change. But they say at least it gives them a platform to begin to demand it.

    The Nobel Peace laureate placed little filter on her words. She said the country was controlled by a very small group of people, and that this group of people must in turn be controlled. A spectator said this was impossible because, “they control us with guns.”

    Aung San Suu Kyi tried to temper expectations, acknowledging the great amount of work that lies ahead for her and the people in order to build a nation. She stressed the importance of cooperation. Thanking the security personnel who guarded her house during her arrest, she punned that love is not the act of scratching at one another.

    National Reconciliation

    After her speech, she took questions from local and foreign journalists at the NLD office. The pro-democracy leader called for open political dialogue and peaceful national reconciliation with all groups, including ethnic minority militias fighting the military in the country’s north.

    “The problems with violence on the border areas with ethnic groups will not be solved overnight,” she said. “I am very sad that ours is a country where conflict is solved with arms.”

    Aung San Suu Kyi also opened a small window into her life of confinement. She said she was able to remain fairly even keeled during her detention by meditating every day.

    Although the opposition leader was isolated from her family, friends and colleagues during most of her detention, authorities did grant her rare meetings with senior party members during the past year. During those consultations, the NLD decided not to participate in the November 7 polls because the election rules banned political prisoners from voting, and required the party to expel its own leader.

    Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters Sunday that she stood by that decision.

    “I do not regret not participating in an election I did not believe in, because I did not believe in the constitution. I did not believe in writing off the 1990 elections, and I did not believe in abandoning our comrades who are in jail,” she said.

    When asked how she would navigate the new political landscape, she said she could not even see it because there were, “too many people standing in front of her.”

    The Masses

    A crowd of several thousand joined Aung San Suu Kyi for her first political speech in nearly a decade. Many held signs that said, “I love Aung San Suu Kyi.” One man held a newspaper, crouching beneath its broadsheets for shade. “I’m sweating too much,” he said. “But it’s worth it, I would not miss ‘The Lady’ for anything.”  An elderly monk was not as lucky. He passed out from the heat, and lay on the hot pavement.

    Representatives of the entire diplomatic corps, a group of about 30 people, also joined the event. They met with Aung San Suu Kyi inside the NLD office before she made her speech.

    “All the diplomats expressed pleasure at her release and relayed their respective governments’ messages, including countries from the ASEAN grouping,” reported U.S. Charge d’Affaires Larry Dinger, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “She said her release was unrestricted, and she was free to travel around the country and internationally but had too much work to do inside the country at the moment.”

    Many are concerned that Aung San Suu Kyi could face further detention should she move ahead with her political agenda too quickly, posing a threat to the military government. She dismissed those concerns, saying, “My popularity comes and goes, I do not think they should be threatened.”

    As the hot, sweaty crowd disbanded, many were pushed and injured, but the spirit of the group was peaceful, reflecting the spirit of the person they had come to support.

    A 48 year-old farmer from the Sagaing region traveled all the way to Rangoon once he heard the news.

    “I’m so happy,” he said. “We have been waiting for such a long time.”

    on Dipity.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora