The military of Burma has crushed the nonviolent monks, uses Burmese children as soldiers, allowed a cyclone and its consequences to sweep over 100,000 Burmese to their deaths, driven a half million from their homes and now the military will not allow the proper medical care for their Nobel Peace Prize winner. Aung San Suu Kyi is ill and not doing well.
Having led the National League for Democracy to a massive victory in 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi could have left Burma and traveled the world, enjoying her freedom and the respect of the world, gathering doctorates and living a reasonably good life. She instead stayed home in Burma. Isolated, surrounded by soldiers who are terrified of a woman who doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds.
But her life and writings are strong. Many see her as the living symbol of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She certainly is the symbol of hope for many outside of Burma, but she is deeply needed inside of Burma. The Burmese military are an out of control government who have the firm support of the Chinese government. Human rights groups of all kinds strain to tell of the brutality and monstrous actions of this government. People like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, REM, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Bono, Sting, President Obama, the US Senate Women’s Caucus and Peter Gabriel have all sent messages of support.
But still, Burma is far away from us. Few know her name. Fewer can pronounce it. Most do not know where Burma is. So what do we do?
We rally around her, is what we do. Just like we did for Mandela and all the Mandela’s of the world. This is one time that the US government is in advance of the cause. Aung San Suu Kyi has the support of our president and of the Western governments.
My search for my own symbol of hope took me to Burma in February of 1999. My lady and I pretended to be tourists, actually antique dealers, so that we might get a moment with Aung San Suu Kyi. It worked because we spent many an hour walking up and down in front of the little dilapidated headquarters of the National League for Democracy. At that time she was allowed to give rice out to her people once a month. We found her that day and got in line with her followers and finally met her for about 20 minutes. She is a steel flower. Bright, articulate, focused. A no nonsense person, no wonder she won 82% of the vote. We finally took a picture and got her autograph for my stepson. On the way out that night, the customs people tried to find these but to no avail.
A deep fear will and has gone through the Burmese community all over the world. They know she, their Mandela, cannot fall before the fall of apartheid. We all live and we all die… but if the Burmese military denies her medical support appropriate to the problems, and she dies, it will be a devastating blow beyond all comprehension for the decent people of Burma. We must not allow that to happen.
Her father Aung San, the founder of the military of Burma was executed when he was 32. It was a premature death. We must not allow this to occur to his daughter.