Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, non-violent activist, and leader of the National League for Democracy – Aung San Suu Kyi – currently still under house arrest by the Burmese government – stepped outside to greet and show support for the Buddhist monks currently marching against the military junta and dictatorship in power.
Aung San Suu Kyi (from her biography on womeninworldshistory.com)
Put under house arrest again in 2003 by the government, Suu Kyi has not made a public appearance since then. With her showing, along with the growing support for the Buddhist monks, there is speculation that this latest challenge will be the most substantial to the government since General Ne Win stepped down, and the current military took hold of Burma (and subsequently renamed it to Myanmar).
From the UK Independent:
Burma’s imprisoned democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, made a rare public appearance yesterday when thousands of Burmese monks, marching in protest against the military regime, passed the Rangoon property where she is under house arrest.
The alliance of Ms Suu Kyi and the Buddhist clergy could be crucial as the Burmese regime confronts its most sustained challenge in two decades.
“Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since 30 May 2003, when her convoy was attacked by [government-sponsored] thugs,” said Mark Farmaner, of Burma Campaign UK. “By visiting her the monks are putting their spiritual authority behind the democracy movement. It is a strong message of unity.”
From the Washington Post:
“Today is extraordinary. We walked past lay disciple Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house today. We are pleased and glad to see her looking fit and well,” a 45-year old monk told about 200 people at Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. “Daw” is an honorific used in referring to older women.
“She came out to the gate and paid obeisance to us and later waved at the crowd when we left,” said the monk, who did not give his name.
Government, Human Rights, and the current protests by Buddhist Monks
While the latest protests have been sparked due to the sharp increase in commodities and fuel from the government, they are a continuation of the almost twenty years of struggle between the nation’s people and the current military government.
After the military regime took control in 1988, elections were held in 1990 to elect a new government and Prime Minister. While Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy won decisively, the military nullified the results, never allowing Suu Kyi to lead Burma as a democratic nation causing a national outcry. Since then, over the long periods of unrest, Burma (officially named the Union of Myanmar), while being the largest country in Southeast Asia geographically, is still one of the poorest countries in the region where the current military regime has had a long history of human rights abuses.
Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have reported on human rights abuses by the military government. They have claimed that there is no independent judiciary in Myanmar. The military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access on-line. Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common. The military is also notorious for rampant use of sexual violence as an instrument of control, including systematic rapes and taking of sex slaves as porters for the military. A strong women’s pro-democracy movement has formed in exile, largely along the Thai border and in Chang Mai. The Women’s League of Burma is the leading women’s civil society organization, an umbrella organization uniting many smaller women’s ethnic organizations into a political force working for democracy and women’s human rights in Burma. There is a growing international movement to defend women’s human rights issues.
More links about the protests:
- Burma monks continue protests (UK’s In the news)
- Burmese Urged To Back Boycotting Monks (Buddhist Channel)
- Emboldened Myanmar monks challenge junta rule (AFP)
- Thousands join Burma monks on protest march (icWales)