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Aung San Suu Kyi Released from House Arrest; but NOT Free

Now is not the time to jump on a flight out to Burma. Politically nothing has really changed and from a safety point of view things have just got significantly more dangerous for the Burmese people and visitors alike; tourists could easily get caught up in sporadic political rallies and their potential suppression by Burma’s violent military dictators.

That people should not yet visit Burma is something I have long enthused about and anyone who admires Aung San Suu Kyi and rejoices in her release, should have enough respect for her, as the only democratically elected leader of the Burmese people in the past 50 years and stay away.

I look forward to hearing her speak in the next few days (and hopefully) months and years. People considering travelling to Burma should have the patience to wait and see what she says; for now her stance remains that tourists should not visit Burma as tourism provides vast foreign income for the military, income they use to buy weapons and instil fear, in order to cement their position as the unwanted oppressors of the Burmese people.

I have examined the subject and the arguments for and against visiting this country many times before in this blog and other communications, but on this occasion I also want to give my opinion on these new developments in Burma.

I am always a little sceptical about political statements in this forum, but when it comes to Burma I make an exception, because when it comes to Burma politics, which suggests some form of engagement, does not really exist.

Following the release of ‘The Lady’, as Aung San Suu Kyi is affectionately known by many of her people (‘The Lady’ comes in part from the terror of mentioning her name in Burma, for fear of reprisals), I have heard the term ‘Mandela moment’ once too often already.

Like many I rejoice in her release, it delivers a lift to all of Burma and so many others round the world; my concern is that her release is a tentative step and not a ‘Mandela moment’. Burma’s history tells us it is unlikely that the military see this as some kind of forward momentum to real change, but rather as a temporary concession, no doubt with an ulterior sinister motive.

Let me make my opinion clear, Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from 15 years of illegal house arrest which was imposed for speaking out against the regime. She is not free; no one in Burma is free.

In Burma over the past 50 years, even the slightest hope that people have been given, has always been followed by devastation when the military dictators who refuse to tolerate any form of opposition, public protest or genuine reform, show their hand. Frighteningly their preferred means of stopping this type of activity is through mass imprisonment, harassment, torture, violence and the use of deadly indiscriminate force.

The Burmese military recently held an ‘election’… well they called it an election, in reality it was simply an exercise in the appeasement of some of its neighbours, a token gesture which they hoped would grant them another decade of power before their next move was required. That is what the military rulers of Burma do, they pretend and the international community fall for it every time. The cynic in me thinks this move to release Aung San Suu Kyi is just that; the latest move in a long game of chess, with a very reluctant international community.

When people talk about Burma and the Burmese generals they tend to do so as if they follow our rules and have our values; or as if they have any humanity. The military rulers of Burma have proven time and time again, that they play by nobody’s rules but their own, that human life has no value to them and that their own individual enrichment and grip on power is to be defended at any cost.

We tend to interpret their words and gestures as if they were democratic leaders. Their word ‘election’ is used for what was effectively a PR exercise, the words ‘freed from detention’ are used when Aung San Suu Kyi goes from house arrest to living is a country which is effectively under ‘country arrest’.

I often try and rationalise events in Burma by thinking what the equivalent situation would be in the UK:

Before I start, I should make it clear that this is not a reflection on the real people who are mentioned by name, merely a way of depicting what it might be like in the UK if the realities of life in Burma were applied here. I also want to point out that I am not being flippant, but what I describe, as unbelievable as it seems, happened and is happening in Burma


The Burmese Election Model if it were used in a UK

David Cameron would dismiss all senior military personnel and appoint himself as supreme commander of the new joint military command; other members of the cabinet would take up the other senior military positions, followed by Quango leaders and associated family members; obviously with the exception of the Liberal Democrats who would be imprisoned.

Military leaders would spend a significant portion of GDP building a new capitol city in the Scottish Highlands complete with palaces, government buildings and all the trappings of state. An eight lane highway leading up to the new capitol city is reserved primarily for government cars; after all citizens are limited to official fuel rations.

They would build an army of over 750,000 soldiers, which would be deployed throughout the country to control British citizens. The army would contain the largest numbers of child soldiers of any country in the world; British children forced to fight against their own.

In order to gain some legitimacy an election would be called, there would be no need for General Cameron to visit the Queen, she was placed on a slow boat heading for exile by the military regime with her whole family, along with the members of the house of lords; a lucky escape considering the options.

The new constitution of the United Kingdom drawn up by General Cameron and his closest confidants without consultation, states that at least 25% of the seats in parliament must be reserved for the new military rulers with any new policy requiring more than a 75% majority to be passed; effectively giving General Cameron a veto.

In preparation for the election the Conservatives rebrand and decide to change their name to ‘Federation of England And its Republics’ more commonly referred to as ‘FEAR 24/7’. FEAR 24/7 will field a candidate in every constituency, of which the majority are subservient ex-military personnel who have been retired from the armed forces in order to take up these new ‘civilian’ roles; they will have the full support of the country’s finances to run their campaigns.

But General Cameron has promised the international community to make this election a ‘road-map to democracy’, so other parties can take part in the election, but there are some conditions:

  • They must pay elections fees which are equivalent to 6 months wages for someone in well paid employment.
  • They may not meet with more than three or four people at any one time
  • They may not hold political rallies
  • They may not have a criminal record

This last conditions is a problem because General Cameron has sent every senior member of the labour party, the liberal democrat party, the greens and even UKIP to Guantanamo detention centre; sentences range between 10 and 40 years hard labour. Their crimes range from expressing political satire, to holding public meetings and include the heinous crime of providing financial support for victims of a natural disaster without permission. Amongst the 2000+ political prisoners sent to Guantanamo are top political leaders, leaders of Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, political satirists and commentators, TV comedians and journalists.

General Cameron has also imposed some other restrictions on the election process to ensure it is conducted in an orderly manner:

  • Only FEAR 24/7 will be given coverage on television and in the national / local press
  • The disruptive ethnic groups in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not be allowed to vote, because the military cannot guarantee the safety of the electorate…
  • All international journalists will be removed from the UK and no free press in-country will be authorised.
  • International observers are not required and will only get in the way, the military does not require any help after all it has run one election in the past 50 years.
  • There will be local observers present to ensure that people vote in the ‘right way’, in fact a specialist unit has been developed in such skills over the past decade, FEAR 24/7 refer to them as MI or Military Intelligence.
  • Finally only members of FEAR 24/7 will be allowed to view the election count and they will have access to spare ballot papers should there be any discrepancies which need correcting.

The results of the elections are eagerly awaited…

If we ever had a person with the integrity of Aung San Suu Kyi in the UK, maybe General Cameron would feel secure enough to release her once an overwhelming victory in the staged election had been achieved.                                                                               

Back to the reality in Burma…


What happens next?

That is a question which will be answered over the coming days and weeks, but anyone who thinks this is a sign of change or weakness in the military will, I fear, be sorely disappointed. No action by the military rulers of Burma is taken without detailed consideration of the potential consequences. They play on the impotence of the international communities response, giving just enough to allow themselves room to breathe and permitting other international leaders the chance to continue with the stance of ‘let’s wait and see what will happen’; the Burmese people have been waiting for 50 years.

When the Burmese people take matters into their own hands as a direct consequence of the failure of international pressure, the results are always the same; house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi and dissolving political demonstrations on the streets by sending in the most ruthless army units.

Let our short memories not forget; the thousands of people killed during the pro-democracy movement of 1988; the monks whose peaceful demonstration in 2008 resulted once again in people being gunned down in the streets of Rangoon (including a Japanese journalist shot in the back at close range) and monasteries being ransacked; or the hundreds of thousands of people devastated by cyclone Nargis in 2008 abandoned to their fate, when aid agencies who were ready to deploy humanitarian assistance were denied access by the military leaders; not to mention the countless horrendous instances of utter inhumanity carried out on the command of military leaders every day throughout Burma.

Who knows what plans the Burmese generals have thought out in releasing Aung San Suu Kyi or how long they will allow her to go about her business unhindered.

It is likely to be a tactic rather than a change of heart; Chairman Mao who used to release prominent dissidents in order to draw their supporters and followers out of the woodwork, so they could be identified and rounded up. However tactics can go wrong and the generals have underestimated the feeling of the Burmese people towards Daw Aung San Suu Kyi before.

Those inside and outside Burma who have tried to claim The Lady is no longer relevant to the struggle for freedom in that country, underestimate her spirit, underestimate the respect she has amongst all the people of Burma, underestimate the reverence she generates, underestimate the positive energy she spreads, underestimate the power of good over evil and have little understanding of Burmese culture and history.

It is for us to do what we can, even if all we can do is to talk about the situation and keep the spotlight on Burma. It is a spotlight without which the citizens of Burma and most prominently amongst them Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be in even greater peril.

Today we have hope here in a free country looking into Burma; in Burma, hope is a commodity used by the brutal military regime as a weapon to be deployed alongside fear, in order to oppress an incredible people in a most beautiful country.

For more details and for anyone wishing to assist the campaign to free Burma, a campaign which did not end today but merely started its latest incarnation, please visit the Burma Campaign Website.


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Source – Safe Gap Year 

Date – 13th November 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew