Sunday, June 21, 2009

Burmese Refugees Celebrate Birthday of Imprisoned Suu Kyi

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Burmese democracy hero Daw Aung San Suu Kyi turned 64 last Friday the 19th of June.

But there were unlikely to be celebrations at the notorious Insein prison, in the Burmese capital Yangon, where Suu Kyi remains imprisoned.

She is on trial for charges of violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home last month.

The trial is widely viewed as an excuse to keep her locked up until elections, scheduled for next year are held. U.N. human-rights investigators have condemned her arrest, labeling it a "flagrant" rights violation.

In Mae Sot, on the Thai Burma border, thousands of Burmese refugees honored Suu Kyi’s struggle with celebrations and ceremonies marking her birthday.

Asia Calling reporter Kong Janoi was there for the celebrations and filed this report.

Hundreds of Burmese refugees joined celebrations for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday in Mae Sot.

In music and dance and with words of praise they honored her efforts to achieve democracy in their homeland.

U Zaw Wot is convinced that only she can end the military junta’s rule.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only current leader in Burma who is known as a political and moral force. She is respected by many and I think only she can deliver democracy for the Burmese and also solve ethnic issues.”

But others are more cautious.

U Kyaw Han, a former chairman of the All Student Rakhine Congress says Ms Suu Kyi is certainly a democracy hero but she may not be able to resolve Burma’s ethnic divisions. He believes ethnic people need to stand up for themselves.

“We have to separate the two sides of Suu Kyi’s leadership. She is perfect to lead Burma’s democracy movement, but I don't think she will be able to represent the interests of all ethnics groups in Burma.”

Nan Dah Eh Kler, a secretary of Karen Women Organization says it is too soon to know what Ms Suu Kyi can do for Karen people.

“It is hard to say whether Ms Suu Kyi represents the Karen people because she has not met Karen civilians or had discussions with them about their problems. But as we observed in her speechs in the past, she did mention ethnic problems. We have to wait and see if she can solve these when the time comes.”

Regardless of Ms Suu Kyi’s track record on issues of ethnic divide it is clear that, for Burmese women in particular, she is a potent symbol of their struggle for human rights.

Nan Dah says her organization is using the day of her birth, to mark the struggles of all women in Burma.

“All along the border, we are participating with people and other civil society organizations in the campaign for Ms Suu Kyi’s release. There is no justice at all in her arrest. It shows that in Burma, women do not have protection and always become victims. We can not image how women are abused in the rural areas and war zones in Burma.”

In Mae Sot, women planted trees and released birds to mark the passing of her 64th year and hopes for her speedy release from prison.

Their condemnation is an echo of the outrage and concern expressed by leaders and human rights groups across the world.

Tin Tin Aung from the Women’s League of Burma says if the military junta is sincere in its commitment to a so called roadmap for democracy, it must free Ms Suu Kyi.

“Without the release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there will be no inclusive political process and there will be no peaceful transition and no reconciliation and also no lauching of peace and democracy in Burma. So it is important to call international communities to demand for release Aung San Suu Kyi also all political prisoners, to start a dialogue process, review this 2008 constitution and condemn and denounce coming the 2010 elections.”

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