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The Steel Butterfly: Aung San Suu Kyi and the
Democracy Movement in Burma
Voices Against Indifference Initiative
Photo courtesy of First Post
Dear Teachers, As the world watches Burma turn toward democracy, we cannot help but wish to be part of this historic movement; to stand by these citizens who long for justice and who so richly deserve to live in a democratic society. For 25 years, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi endured house arrest because of her unwavering belief in, and fight for, democracy for all the people of Burma. Through her peaceful yet tireless example, Madam Suu Kyi has demonstrated the power of the individual to change the course of history. Now, after 22 years, the United States of America has reopened diplomatic relations with Burma. President Barack Obama visited in November 2012, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited in December 2011 and, in July of 2012, Derek Mitchell was appointed to represent our country as Ambassador to Burma. You who are the teachers of young people, shape thinking and world views each day, directly or subtly, in categories of learning that cross all boundaries. The Echo Foundation thanks you for your commitment to creating informed, compassionate, and responsible young people who will lead us into the future while promoting respect, justice and dignity for all people. With this curriculum, we ask you to teach your students about Burma, the Burmese people, and their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The history of Burma is fascinating. Long in the margins of traditional studies, it deserves to come into the light so that we may join the people of Burma in their quest for a stable democracy. With all good wishes for stimulating adventures in learning,
Stephanie G. Ansaldo, President The Echo Foundation
The Steel Butterfly: Aung San Suu Kyi and the
Democracy Movement in Burma
THE ECHO FOUNDATION 1125 E. Morehead St. Suite 101
Charlotte, NC 28204 www.echofoundation.org
Photo courtesy of Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
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Foreword In the past couple of years, the world has seen a remarkable shift from autocratic forms of government to democracy. Citizens across the globe have begun to overtake the shadows of the past, and are now breaking through the chains of fear in order to embark on a journey for change, equality, justice, and tolerance. As members of a democratic society, we have the responsibility to express our opinions and the privilege to choose our own path in life. As citizens of the world, we must also acknowledge others who are fighting every day for the same freedoms we often take for granted.
For the last several months, we have been tracking the progression of the democratic movement in Burma, a Southeast Asian country which has made astonishing advancements toward building a more democratic form of government for its citizens.
At the head of this movement is world-renowned Nobel Peace Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Imprisoned by the Burma’s military regime for decades, Suu Kyi became the symbol for Burma’s democracy movement. Now free, she is an active participant in the country’s transformation. Her remarkable commitment to those struggling in her country and around the world has been an example for democratic movements in the 21st century. The Steel Butterfly: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Democracy Movement in Burma tells some of her incredible story, with context on Burma’s history and current political reforms.
As we’ve researched this curriculum, we’ve had the privilege to get to know Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma. We are inspired by their courage and determination; from them, we’ve learned that every one of us has the power to make a difference.
Poulumi Banerjee Virginia Reid Student Intern Student Intern Myers Park High School Providence High School
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The Steel Butterfly: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Democracy Movement in Burma
Table of Contents I. Current Event Spotlight…………………………………………………………………7
A. Obama to Make Landmark Visit to Myanmar This Month
II. Cultural Context: A Brief History of Burma…………………………………...…….10 A. Burma Profile B. The History of Burma C. A Chronology of Key Events in Burma’s History D. Burma or Myanmar: The Name Game E. Burma Profile – President Thein Sein F. Media Coverage in Burma G. Burma's Ethnic Conflicts See Slow Progress to Resolution H. Activity – Debate: Dialogue as a Necessary Component of Democracy I. Study Questions
III. An Introduction to Aung San Suu Kyi ………………………………………..............37 A. Profile on Aung San Suu Kyi B. The Meaning of Her Name C. Aung San Suu Kyi: A Biography D. Influences on Pro-Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi E. The Legacy of Her Father, Aung San F. Burma TV Marks Suu Kyi Father's Martyrs' Day Memorial
G. Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Receive United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Elie Wiesel Award at National Tribute Dinner H. Nobel Acceptance Speech I. Study Questions
IV. Buddhism and Its Impact on Aung San Suu Kyi……………………..........................61 A. Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Buddhism has influenced my worldview’
B. Following the Buddha's Footsteps C. Main Buddhist Festivals D. Study Questions
V. Aung San Suu Kyi Political and Humanitarian Work.................................................79 A. Aung San Suu Kyi Calls For Release of all Burma's Political Prisoners
B. Opposition Leader Suu Kyi Calls for Protection of Ethnics in Myanmar C. Aung San Suu Kyi Calls For More Aid to Ethnic Areas D. Aung San Suu Kyi and the Art of Compromise E. An Interview with Burma’s Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi After House Arrest F. The 2011 Time 100 G. A List of Literary Works by Aung San Suu Kyi H. Excerpts Fom Her Books I. Study Questions
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VI. Transitioning to Democracy………….........................................................................102 A. Strengthening Civil Society an Important Step Towards Democracy B. Burma’s Quiet Reformers C. What Will Burma’s Economic Future Look Like? D. More Milestones in Burma E. Burma Elections: Suu Kyi Voters on Their Future Hopes F. What Now for Burma After Election Landslide? G. EU Agrees to Suspend Most Burma Sanctions H. Barack Obama Appoints Derek Mitchell as First US Ambassador to Burma
I. Study Questions
VII. Reference Materials.............................................................……………………..……134
VIII. Appendix: About The Echo Foundation………….……………………………….....138
The Echo Foundation thanks 2012 student interns Poulumi Banerjee, senior at Myers Park High School, and Virginia Reid, sophomore at Providence High School, for the many dedicated hours they contributed to the research and development of this curriculum guide.
Statement of Use
The Echo Foundation is pleased to provide this curriculum guide for use in teaching and private study. For educational purposes only, you may reproduce (print, copy, or download) any part of this guide crediting The Echo Foundation as follows:
Educational materials compiled by The Echo Foundation through its Voices Against Indifference Initiative
Please note: In all cases, appropriate credit to the individual author and publication are the responsibility of those who reproduce this material.
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I. Current Event Spotlight: Obama to Make Landmark Visit to
Myanmar This Month From Reuters By Aung Hla Tun and Matt Spetalnick 9 November 2012
President Barack Obama will become the first U.S. leader to visit Myanmar this month, the strongest international endorsement of the fragile democratic transition in the Southeast Asian country after half a century of military rule.
Obama will travel to Myanmar during a November 17-20 tour of Southeast Asia that will also take in Thailand and Cambodia, the White House said on Thursday, confirming his first international trip since he won a second term in Tuesday's election.
He is going ahead with the trip despite recent sectarian violence in western Myanmar that has drawn concern from the United States and European Union.
U.N. human rights investigators have criticized the quasi-civilian government's handling of the strife between Buddhists and minority Muslims, and some Myanmar exiles see Obama's trip as premature before political reforms have been consolidated.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Septemer 19, 2012. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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The visit to Myanmar, the first by a sitting U.S. president, will give Obama a chance to meet President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to encourage the "ongoing democratic transition", White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Suu Kyi spent years in detention under the military as the figurehead of the movement for democracy. She was elected to parliament in April, when her National League for Democracy (NLD) ran in by-elections after boycotting a 2010 poll.
Obama will be in Myanmar on November 19, according to a senior government source in Yangon, where people expressed delight.
"I believe it is a clear sign of improved ties between the two countries and I am very glad that our NLD party played an important role in working for the emergence of this situation," said NLD executive committee member Han Tha Myint.
Myint Soe, vice-chairman of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the historic visit showed Myanmar had now been admitted into the international community.
"It's good for President Obama to see things with his own eyes," he said. "I would like to request him to keep encouraging the democratization process in our country by helping to promote the socioeconomic standards of the people."
Obama's presence in Myanmar, also known as Burma, will highlight what his administration sees as a first-term foreign policy achievement and a development that could help counter China's influence in a strategically important region.
Washington takes some credit for a carrot-and-stick approach that pushed Myanmar's long-ruling generals toward democratic change and led to Thein Sein taking office as a reformist president in 2011.
But Obama also risks criticism for rewarding the new government too soon, especially after security forces failed to prevent bloody ethnic violence in the west of the country.
At least 89 people were killed in the recent clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and minority Muslim Rohingyas. Many thousands more have been displaced by the violence.
The U.S. Campaign for Burma, an exile group, said Obama's trip could "undermine the democracy activists and ethnic minorities", but added that if the president was intent on going, he should broaden his agenda to include meetings with the still-powerful military and an address to parliament.
A senior administration official said Obama, who will also speak to civil society groups, was "acutely aware" of concerns about human rights, ethnic violence and political prisoners in Myanmar and would address those issues during his visit.
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The United States eased sanctions on Myanmar this year in recognition of the political and economic change under way, and many U.S. companies are looking at starting operations in the country located between China and India, with its abundant resources and low-cost labor.
In November 2011, Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.
Obama has sought to consolidate ties and reinforce U.S. influence across Asia in what has been dubbed a policy "pivot" toward the region as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
Myanmar grew close to China during decades of isolation, reinforced by Western sanctions over its poor human rights record, but is now seeking to expand relations with the West.
In Beijing, a senior Chinese official from a border province said China saw no threat to its interests from Obama's visit.
"We understand and support the wish of the Myanmar authorities wanting to open up and become part of the world," Qin Guangrong, Communist Party chief in Yunnan province, told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress.
"We believe that Myanmar's leaders will exercise their wisdom to lead their country's opening up. They know that the people of China will always be true friends of Myanmar's."
Obama met Suu Kyi, a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on her visit to the United States in September. Thein Sein was also in the United States to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York but the two leaders did not meet.
U.S. Democratic Representative Joe Crowley, who is active on Myanmar issues, said Obama's trip could be "the most significant step" in support of democracy there.
But he said: "There is still much more to be done. Too many political prisoners remain locked up, ethnic violence must be stopped, and not all necessary political reforms have been put in place."
Obama will be in Southeast Asia to attend meetings in Cambodia centered on an annual summit of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is usually extended to take in leaders of partner countries.
Preliminary details for this year show the event will run from November 15 to November 20. The Cambodian government has said Obama will be in the capital, Phnom Penh, on November 18. The White House has yet to release a detailed itinerary.
The heads of government of China, Japan, Russia and other countries are also expected in Cambodia for the meetings.
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II. Cultural Context: A Brief History of Burma
Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast
A. Burma Profile B. The History of Burma C. A Chronology of Key Events in Burma’s History D. Burma or Myanmar: The name game E. Burma Profile – President Thein Sein F. Media Coverage in Burma G. Burma's ethnic conflicts see slow progress to resolution H. Activity – Debate: Dialogue as a Necessary Component of Democracy I. Study Questions
“The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
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From BBC News Asia-Pacific 12 June 2012
Burma, also known as Myanmar, was long considered a pariah state, isolated from the rest of the world and with an appalling human rights record.
From 1962 to 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta that suppressed almost all dissent and wielded absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions.
The generals who ran Burma stood accused of gross human rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labor, including children.
The first general election in 20 years was held in 2010. This was hailed by the junta as an important step in the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy, though opposition groups alleged widespread fraud and condemned the election as a sham. It was boycotted by the main opposition group, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) - which had won a landslide victory in the previous multi-party election in 1990 but was not allowed to govern.
A nominally civilian government led by President Thein Sein - who served as a general and then prime minister under the junta - was installed in March 2011.
• Politics: From 1962 until March 2011, Burma was ruled by a military junta that stifled almost all dissent
• Economy: Burma is one of Asia's poorest countries; its economy is riddled with corruption
• International: Burma has long been seen as a pariah state by the West, which only began relaxing sanctions in 2012; China is its main ally
However, a new constitution brought in by the junta in 2008 entrenched the primacy of the military. A quarter of seats in both parliamentary chambers are reserved for the military, and three key ministerial posts - interior, defense and border affairs - must be held by serving generals.
Photo courtesy of BBC News
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Despite this inauspicious start to Burma's new post-junta phase, a series of reforms in the months since the new government took up office has led to hopes that decades of international isolation could be coming to an end.
This was confirmed when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a landmark visit to Burma in December 2011 - the first by a senior US official in 50 years - during which she met both President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Mrs. Clinton said that the US would be willing to consider easing sanctions if further progress was made towards political reform. The EU went on to lift all non-military sanctions for a year in April 2012 during a visit by foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
The largest ethnic group is the Burman people, who are distantly related to the Tibetans and the Chinese. Burman dominance over Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Rohingya, Chin, Kachin and other minorities has been the source of considerable ethnic tension and has fuelled intermittent separatist rebellions.
Military offensives against insurgents have uprooted many thousands of civilians. Ceasefire deals signed in late 2011 and early 2012 with rebels of the Karen and Shan ethnic groups suggested a new determination to end the long-running conflicts.
This graph shows the percentage of the Burmese population that makes up each ethnic group. Photo courtesy of burmacampaign.org
Photo courtesy of Economy Watch
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A largely rural, densely forested country, Burma is the world's largest exporter of teak and a principal source of jade, pearls, rubies and sapphires. It has highly fertile soil and important offshore oil and gas deposits. Little of this wealth reaches the mass of the population.
The economy is one of the least developed in the world, and is suffering the effects of decades of stagnation, mismanagement, and isolation. Key industries have long been controlled by the military, and corruption is rife. The military has also been accused of large-scale trafficking in heroin, of which Burma is a major exporter.
The EU, United States and Canada imposed economic sanctions on Burma, although the EU suspended all non-military measures for a year in April 2012. Of the major economies, only China, India and South Korea have invested in the country.
Burma's wealth of Buddhist temples has boosted the increasingly important tourism industry, which is the most obvious area for any future foreign investment.
Burma’s Profile and Statistics
• Official name: Republic of the Union of Myanmar (previously Union of Myanmar; Union of Burma )
• Population: 50.5 million ( 2010) • Capital: Nay Pyi Taw • Largest city: Rangoon (Yangon) • Area: 676,552 sq km (261,218 sq miles) • Major languages: Burmese, indigenous ethnic languages • Major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam • Life expectancy: 64 years (men), 68 years (women) (UN) • Monetary unit: 1 kyat = 100 pyas • Main exports: Teak, pulses and beans, prawns, fish, rice, opiates, oil and gas
Photo courtesy of The Myanmar Times Teak, pulses and beans, and rice are some of Burma’s
largest exports. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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The History of Burma From Canadian Friends of Burma
Early Burma The nation we know as Burma was first formed during the golden age of Pagan in the 11th century. King Anawratha ascended the throne in 1044, uniting Burma under his monarchy. His belief in Buddhism led him to begin building the temples and pagodas for which the city of Pagan is renowned. Pagan became the first capital of a Burmese kingdom that included virtually all of modern Burma. The golden age of pagan reached its peak in during the reign of Anawratha's successor, Kyanzitta (1084-1113), another devout Buddhist, under whom it acquired the name "City of four million pagodas ".
Under Colonial Rule
Although Burma was at times divided into independent states, a series of monarchs attempted to establish their absolute rule, with varying degrees of success. Eventually, an expansionist British Government took advantage of Burma's political instability. After three Anglo-Burmese wars over a period of 60 years, the British completed their colonization of the country in 1886, Burma was immediately annexed as a province of British India, and the British began to permeate the ancient Burmese culture with foreign elements. Burmese customs were often weakened by the imposition of British traditions.
The British also further divided the numerous ethnic minorities by favoring some groups, such as the Karen, for positions in the military and in local rural administrations. During the 1920s, the
first protests by Burma's intelligentsia and Buddhist monks were launched against British rule. By 1935, the Students Union at Rangoon University was at the forefront of what would evolve into an active and powerful movement for national independence. A young law student Aung San, executive-committee member and magazine editor for the Students Union, emerged as the potential new leader of the national movement. In the years that followed, he successfully organized a series of student strikes at the university, gaining the support of the nation.
Burma at a time when it was held under British rule. Photo courtesy of Canadian Friends of Burma
A portrait of the Thirty Comrades.
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Independence and Democracy
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Aung San seized the opportunity to bring about Burmese independence. He and 29 others, known as the Thirty Comrades, left Burma to undergo military training in Japan. In 1941, they fought alongside the Japanese who invaded Burma. The Japanese promised Aung San that if the British were defeated, they would grant Burma her freedom. When it became clear that the Japanese would not follow through with their promise, Aung San quickly negotiated an agreement with the British to help them defeat the Japanese.
Hailed as the architect of Burma's new-found independence by the majority of Burmese, Aung San was able to negotiate an agreement in January 1947 with the British, under which Burma would be granted total independence from Britain. Although a controversial figure to some ethnic minorities, he also had regular meetings with ethnic leaders throughout Burma in an effort
to create reconciliation and unity for all Burmese.
As the new leader drafted a constitution with his party's ministers in July 1947, the course of Burmese history was dramatically and tragically altered. Aung San and members of his newly-formed cabinet were assassinated when an opposition group with machine guns burst into the room. A member of Aung San's cabinet, U Nu, was delegated to fill the position suddenly left vacant by Aung San's death. Burma was finally granted independence on January 4, 1948, at 4:20am - a moment selected most auspicious by an astrologer.
For the next ten years, Burma's fledging democratic government was continuously challenged by communist and ethnic groups who felt under-represented in the 1948 constitution. Periods of intense civil war destabilized the
nation. Although the constitution declared that minority states could be granted some level of independence in ten years, their long-awaited day of autonomy never arrived. As the economy floundered, U Nu was removed from office in 1958 by a caretaker government led by General Ne Win, one of Aung San's fellow thakins. In order to "restore law and order" to Burma, Ne Win took control of the whole country including the minority states, forcing them to remain under the jurisdiction of the central government. Although he allowed U Nu to be re-elected Prime Minister in 1960, two years later he staged a coup and solidified his position as Burma's military dictator. Burma Under a Dictatorship Ne Win's new Revolutionary Council suspended the constitution and instituted authoritarian military rule. Full attention turned to the military defeat of communist and ethnic-minority rebel groups. The country was closed off from the outside world as the new despot promoted an
Burma's Independence Day. The British governor, left, and Burma's first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, stand at attention as the new nation's flag is raised on January 4, 1948. Photo courtesy of history.howstuffworks.com
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isolation ideology based on what he called the Burmese Way to Socialism. Superstitious, xenophobic and ruthless, for the next three decades Ne Win set a thriving nation on a disastrous path of cultural, environmental and economic ruin. Outside visitors were few and restricted to Rangoon, Mandalay and a handful of other tightly controlled towns close to the central plains. Insurgency remained endemic and in many areas of Burma armed struggle became a way of life.
The People's Demands Are Met With Bullets
In July 1988 Ne Win suddenly announced that he was preparing to leave the stage. Seeing at last a possible escape from military rule, economic decline and routine human rights abuses, thousands of people took to the streets of Rangoon. Demonstrations broke out across the country during the so-called "Democracy Summer" that followed. But on August 8, 1988 troops began a four day massacre, firing into crowds of men, women and children gathered in Rangoon. At least 10,000 demonstrators were killed across the country. Thousands of students and democracy advocates fled to the border regions under ethnic control and forged alliances with ethnic resistance movements. Some of these groups include the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the All Burma Student Democratic Front, the Democratic Alliance of Burma, and the longstanding National Democratic Front situated in Manerplaw (the former headquarters of the Karen National Union which fell to SLORC in January 1995). Together these groups formed the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organization representing all the groups. A Leader Emerges
It just so happened that during this time of unrest in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, who had been living abroad, returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. Her devotion kept her there and brought her into the political foray. Attempting to quell international condemnation for its violence, the military announced it would hold multi-party elections. Under the persuasion of students and others opposed to the regime, Aung San Suu Kyi and like-minded colleagues founded the National League for Democracy (NLD). Her party quickly gathered country-wide support. Just when democratic changes seemed imminent Ne Win commandeered the army from behind the scenes to take over the country in a staged "coup".
On September 18, 1988, control of the country was handed to a 19-member State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and a vicious crackdown followed. Although committed to non-violence, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in July 1989 for "endangering the
Throughout the years, Burma has struggled to change its government from a harsh military dictatorship to a democracy. Photo courtesy of The New York Times
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state" and kept there for the next six years. Desperate to improve their image and generate foreign investment, the SLORC went ahead on May 27, 1990 and held the multi-party elections they had promised. Despite the SLORC's severe repression against members of opposition parties (Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest) and the complete lack of freedom of expression throughout the country, Suu Kyi's NLD party swept to victory with 82% of the vote. Surprised and outraged, the SLORC refused to acknowledge the election results and has retained its repressive grip on power ever since.
Even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May of 2002 the military has refused to relinquish power. The generals have not engaged in any sort of dialogue. The humanitarian situation in Burma is disastrous and civil war still ravages the border areas. The effect of military rule has been a severely impoverished and underdeveloped nation. Burma has rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index. Peace, democracy and the most basic human rights do not exist. Millions have been forced to flee due to military rule and are scattered all over the world longing for the day when they can return to their homeland and be re-united with the families and live in peace.
On August 8, 1988 troops began a four day massacre, firing into crowds of men, women and children gathered in Rangoon. At least 10,000 demonstrators were killed across the country. Photo courtesy of Canadian Friends of Burma
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A Chronology of Key Events in Burma’s History From BBC News Asia-Pacific 12 June 2012
1057 - King Anawrahta founds the first unified Burmese state at Pagan and adopts Theravada Buddhism.
1287 - Mongols under Kublai Khan conquer Pagan.
1531 - Toungoo dynasty, with Portuguese help, reunites Burma.
1755 - Alaungpaya founds the Konbaung dynasty.
1824-26 - First Anglo-Burmese war ends with the Treaty of Yandabo, according to which Burma ceded the Arakan coastal strip, between Chittagong and Cape Negrais, to British India.
1852 - Britain annexes lower Burma, including Rangoon, following the second Anglo-Burmese war.
1885-86 - Britain captures Mandalay after a brief battle; Burma becomes a province of British India.
1937 - Britain separates Burma from India and makes it a crown colony.
1942 - Japan invades and occupies Burma with some help from the Japanese-trained Burma Independence Army, which later transforms itself into the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) and resists Japanese rule.
1945 - Britain liberates Burma from Japanese occupation with help from the AFPFL, led by Aung San.
1947 - Aung San and six members of his interim government assassinated by political opponents led by U Saw, a nationalist rival of Aung San's. U Nu, foreign minister in Ba Maw's government, which ruled Burma during the Japanese occupation, asked to head the AFPFL and the government.
Shwedagon Pagoda is pictured in the background. Photo courtesy of AFP
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1948 - Burma becomes independent with U Nu as prime minister.
Mid-1950s - U Nu, together with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Indonesian President Sukarno, Yugoslav President Tito and Egyptian President Nasser co-found the Movement of Non-Aligned States.
1958-60 - Caretaker government, led by army Chief of Staff General Ne Win, formed following a split in the ruling AFPFL party.
1960 - U Nu's party faction wins decisive victory in elections, but his promotion of Buddhism as the state religion and his tolerance of separatism angers the military.
One-party, military-led state
1962 - U Nu's faction ousted in military coup led by Gen Ne Win, who abolishes the federal system and inaugurates "the Burmese Way to Socialism" - nationalizing the economy, forming a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party as the sole political party, and banning
1974 - New constitution comes into effect, transferring power from the armed forces to a People's Assembly headed by Ne Win and other former military leaders; body of former United Nations secretary-general U Thant returned to Burma for burial.
1975 - Opposition National Democratic Front formed by regionally-based minority groups, who mounted guerrilla insurgencies.
1981 - Ne Win relinquishes the presidency to San Yu, a retired general, but continues as chairman of the ruling Socialist Programme Party.
1982 - Law designating people of non-indigenous background as "associate citizens" in effect bars such people from public office.
Riots and repression
1987 - Currency devaluation wipes out many people's savings and triggers anti-government riots.
1988 - Thousands of people are killed in anti-government riots. The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) is formed.
U Nu, a Burmese nationalist in the 20th century. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
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1989 - SLORC declares martial law, arrests thousands of people, including advocates of democracy and human rights, renames Burma Myanmar, with the capital, Rangoon, becoming Yangon. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, is put under house arrest.
1990 - Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) wins landslide victory in general election, but the result is ignored by the military.
1991 - Aung San Suu Kyi awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to peaceful change.
1992 - Than Shwe replaces Saw Maung as SLORC chairman, prime minister and defense minister. Several political prisoners freed in bid to improve Burma's international image.
1995 - Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest after six years.
1996 - Aung San Suu Kyi attends first NLD congress since her release; SLORC arrests more than 200 delegates on their way to party congress.
1997 - Burma admitted to Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); SLORC renamed State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
Release of pro-democracy supporters
1998 - 300 NLD members released from prison; ruling council refuses to comply with NLD deadline for convening of parliament; student demonstrations broken up.
1999 - Aung San Suu Kyi rejects ruling council conditions to visit her British husband, Michael Aris, who dies of cancer in UK.
2000 September - Ruling council lifts restrictions on movements of Aung San Suu Kyi and senior NLD members.
2000 October - Aung San Suu Kyi begins secret talks with ruling council.
2001 Ruling council releases some 200 pro-democracy activists. Government says releases reflect progress in talks with opposition NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi who remains under house arrest.
Kyi was placed under house arrest when John Yettaw, (above) swam to her house and spent the night there. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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2001 February - Burmese army, Shan rebels clash on Thai border.
2001 June - Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra visits, says relations are back on track.
2001 November - Chinese President Jiang Zemin visits, issues statement supporting government, reportedly urges economic reform.
2002 May - Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi released after nearly 20 months of house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi taken into "protective custody" after clashes between her supporters and those of government.
2003 August - Khin Nyunt becomes prime minister. He proposes to hold convention in 2004 on drafting new constitution as part of "road map" to democracy.
2003 November - Five senior NLD leaders released from house arrest after visit of UN human rights envoy.
2004 January - Government and Karen National Union - most significant ethnic group fighting government - agree to end hostilities.
2004 May - Constitutional convention begins, despite boycott by National League for Democracy (NLD) whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. The convention adjourns in July.
Prime minister ousted
2004 October - Khin Nyunt is replaced as prime minister amid reports of a power struggle. He is placed under house arrest.
2004 November - Leading dissidents are freed as part of a release of thousands of prisoners, including Min Ko Naing, who led the 1988 pro-democracy student demonstrations.
2005 July - ASEAN announces that Burma has turned down the 2006 chairmanship of the regional grouping.
2005 November - Burma says its seat of government is moving to a new site near the central town of Pyinmana.
2007 January - China and Russia veto a draft US resolution at the UN Security Council urging Burma to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups.
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2007 April - Burma and North Korea restore diplomatic ties, 24 years after Rangoon broke them off, accusing North Korean agents of staging a deadly bomb attack against the visiting South Korean president.
2007 May - Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest is extended for another year.
2007 June - In a rare departure from its normally neutral stance, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) accuses the government of abusing the Burmese people's rights.
2007 August - Wave of public dissent sparked by fuel price hikes. Dozens of activists are arrested.
2007 September - Military government declares 14 years of constitutional talks complete and closes the National Convention.
Buddhist monks hold a series of anti-government protests. Aung San Suu Kyi is allowed to leave her house to greet monks demonstrating in Rangoon. It is her first public appearance since 2003.
Authorities begin to crack down on protests, but demonstrations continue.
UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meets opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
2007 October - Normality returns to Rangoon amid heavy military presence. Monks are absent, after thousands are reportedly rounded up.
After some delay, UN Security Council deplores military crackdown on peaceful protesters.
2008 January- A series of bomb blasts hits the country. State media blame "insurgent destructionists", including ethnic Karen rebels.
2008 April - Government publishes proposed new constitution, which allocates a quarter of seats in parliament to the military and bans opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office.
2008 May - Cyclone Nargis hits the low-
Cyclone Nargis left many families without food or shelter. Photo courtesy of About.com
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lying Irrawaddy delta. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 134,000.
Referendum on new constitution proceeds amid humanitarian crisis following cyclone. Government says 92% voted in favor of draft constitution and insists it can cope with cyclone aftermath without foreign help.
Junta renews Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest.
2008 November - Dozens of political activists were given sentences of up to 65 years in series of secretive trials.
2008 December - Government signs deal with consortium of four foreign firms to pipe natural gas into neighboring China, despite protests from human rights groups.
2009 January - Thailand expels hundreds of members of Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority who appeared off its coast. Burma denies the minority's existence. Several hundred Rohingyas are subsequently rescued from boats off the coast of Indonesia.
UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meets opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time in a year.
2009 March- Senior US State Department official Stephen Blake visits for talks with Foreign Minister Nyan Win in what the US calls a routine visit. The Burmese government said it was notable given his seniority.
2009 April - The National League for Democracy (NLD) main opposition group offers to take part in planned elections if the government frees all political prisoners, changes the constitution and admits international observers.
2009 May - The EU extends the 2006 sanctions for another year, but adds that they can be reviewed in the event of moves towards democracy.
UN and aid agencies say hundreds of thousands in the Irrawaddy Delta still need assistance a year after Cyclone Nargis. The UN says Burma now allows it to bring in all the staff it needs.
Aung San Suu Kyi trial
2009 August - Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is convicted of breaching conditions of her house arrest, following visit by an uninvited US national in May. The initial sentence of three years' imprisonment is commuted to 18 months' house arrest.
2009 September - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces plans for engagement with military rulers.
2009 October - Aung San Suu Kyi begins talks with Burma's military leaders and is allowed to meet Western diplomats.
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2010 February - The authorities free NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo. Aung San Suu Kyi's deputy had spent more than a decade in prison or under house arrest.
2010 March - Government announces that long-awaited election laws have been passed, with provisions for an electoral commission hand-picked by the junta.
NLD votes to boycott polls. Splinter party - National Democratic Front (NDF) - later gains legal status and plans to compete in polls.
2010 October - Government changes country's flag, national anthem and official name.
2010 November - Main military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), claims resounding victory in first election for 20 years. Opposition groups allege widespread
fraud and the election is widely condemned as a sham. The junta says the election marks the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy.
A week after the election, Aung San Suu Kyi - who had been prevented from taking part - is released from house arrest.
2011 January - Government authorizes internet connection for Aung San Suu Kyi.
Junta retires to wings
2011 March - Thein Sein is sworn in as president of a new, nominally civilian government.
2011 August - President Thein Sein meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw.
2011 September - President Thein Sein suspends construction of controversial Chinese-funded Myitsone hydroelectric dam, in move seen as showing greater openness to public opinion.
2011 October - Some political prisoners are freed as part of a general amnesty. New labor laws allowing unions are passed.
2011 November- Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she will stand for election to parliament, as her party rejoins the political process.
Kyi and Hillary Clinton. Photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News
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2011 December – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits, meets Aung San Suu Kyi and holds talks with President Thein Sein. U.S. offers to improve relations if democratic reforms continue.
President Thein Sein signs law allowing peaceful demonstrations for the first time; NLD re-registers as a political party in advance of by-elections for parliament due to be held early in 2012.
Burmese authorities agree truce deal with rebels of Shan ethnic group and orders military to stop operations against ethnic Kachin rebels.
2012 January - Government signs ceasefire with rebels of Karen ethnic group.
2012 April - NLD candidates sweep the board in parliamentary by-elections, with Aung San Suu Kyi elected. The European Union suspends all non-military sanctions against Burma for a year. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visit for talks on moving the democracy process forwards.
2012 May - Manmohan Singh pays first official visit by an Indian prime minister since 1987. He signs 12 agreements to strengthen trade and diplomatic ties, specifically providing for border area development and an Indian credit line.
2012 June - Communal violence breaks out between Rakhine Buddhists and the
Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State on the Bangladeshi border. President Sein declares a state of emergency.
Kyi delivers her NLD campaign speech. Photo courtesy of World News
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Burma or Myanmar: The Name Game Foreign Policy Magazine By Min Zin 5 July 2012
Aung San Suu Kyi has given the Burmese authorities the cold shoulder after being warned not to refer to the country as “Burma.”
“I call my country ‘Burma’ as we did a long time ago. I’m not insulting other people. Because I believe in democracy, I’m sure that I can call it as I like,” the Nobel laureate explained at a July 3 press conference in Rangoon about her recent 17-day tour of Europe.
Burma’s election commission, which supervises laws dealing with political parties, issues the complaint in the state-run media last Friday, warning her to “respect the constitution.” Authorities said she should use the constitutionally-decreed name for the country: The Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
But Suu Kyi told the reporters that the previous junta, which seized power in 1988 after crushing a popular protest, changed the name without public consensus: “They didn’t bother to consider what the public opinion about the new names was. They didn’t show any respect to the people.”
The Lady has a valid point. In the wake of the massive crackdown and coup at the end of the 1980s, the much-despised generals announced plans to change the name of the country, and many of the places inside it. The junta considered this renaming exercise to be so important that they appointed a 21-member commission to look into the matter. (Only four of the people on the commission were academics. The rest were soldiers and bureaucrats.) From now on, they decided, the capital Rangoon would be “Yangon.” The ancient city of Pagan would be spelled “Bagan.” And so on.
They claimed that the old words used for these places were symbols of the “British colonial past,” and that the newer, supposedly more authentic, names would “give previously a divided and fractious country sense of national unity under a new banner of the ‘Union of Myanmar,’” The military was, in effect, proclaiming its ownership of the country.
As Suu Kyi notes, no one among the powers-that-be took the trouble to ask the citizens if they agreed. In a politically polarized country like Burma, the names of the country is both a cause
The country’s official name, Myanmar, is not accepted by UK leaders. Photo courtesy of Lowy Institute
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and consequence of the vast divide between rulers and ruled. The rulers of Myanmar live in their country. The citizens of Burma live in theirs.
The U.S., which has always supported the pro-democracy movement, followd the opposition’s lead by refusing to accept the new name. (This has led, for example, to the rather odd situation that the U.S. Embassy in Burma doesn’t refer to itself using the country’s official name.) Just to make matters even more confusing, the United Nations and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations accepted the name changes, while the European Union followed the U.S. at first, but later invented a new name for the country: “Burma/Myanmar.” When Hillary Clinton visited Burma at the end of last year, she dodged the controversy by referring to “this country.”
I’ll spare you the linguistic details. The renaming of the country, however, didi not make virtually any difference to the people of Burma who speak the Burmese language, because they refer to the country interchangeably as Burma as well as Myanmar. The former is take from a spoken and colloquial language. The latter is rooted in literary language.
But the renaming has even more serious implications for ethnic politics, which concern ne more than the legitimacy contest between the opposition and the generals (now generals-turned-civilian-rulers). Burma is a hodgepodge of many different ethnic groups. One of the effects of the renaming effort was to give new Burmese names to many places that had previously been officially known by names in local languages. For instance, the Burmese renaming of towns of the Shan, which is the second largest ethnic group in Burma after the majority Burmans, invariably leads to a corruption of the original pronunciations, and often also to completely inauspicious meanings in Burmese. The Shan word for “town” is “Mong,” but it is now spelled as “Mine,” which means “bomb” in Burmese. As a result, the Shan town “Mong Kerng,” which means “a town producing saddles,” becomes “Mine Kaing” – “holding a bomb.” And so on. Even though the generals claim to be unifying the country with their renamining project, the effect was actually deeply divisive.
Over the past two years, senior U.S. officials have quietly sounded out the opinions of some Burmese opposition activists about whether Washington should start referring to the country as “Myanmar.” In the aftermath of Clinton’s visit in December, some policymakers even suggested rewarding the Thein Sein government by adopting the new name, thus offering an incentive for continuing reforms. (A few months ago, the Financial Times changed its usage from “Burma” to “Myanmar” – the change was then assailed by leading Burma-watcher Bertil Lintner, who argued that the paper had its linguistics wrong.) On the face of things, I find it hard to dispute the argument that promoting real change in this ill-fated country is a lot more important than fussing over names.
However silly it might seem to outsiders, though, there is serious political substance to the whole dispute. It’s impossible to accept the renaming project by calling Burma “Myanmar” without also using the Burmanized versions of ethnic minority names.
Until Burma enjoys genuine freedom and equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity, the feud over what to call it will continue.
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Burma Profile – President Thein Sein From BBC News Asia-Pacific 12 June 2012
Thein Sein was sworn into office in March 2011, officially launching a nominally civilian government to replace almost 50 years of military rule.
He had been hand-picked by Senior General Than Shwe, the country's paramount leader since 1992, to succeed him as Burma's head of state.
The new cabinet lineup, announced on the same day as Mr. Thein Sein's swearing-in, included several ex-military men, many of whom were ministers in the military junta. State
television said the junta's State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) had been dissolved. The SPDC, previously known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, seized power in 1988, but Burma has been under military authority since 1962.
Mr. Thein Sein, who held the rank of general and who was prime minister in the previous administration, competed in parliamentary elections in November 2010. The elections were marred by the absence of the National League for Democracy party which won the previous election of 1990 by a landslide and which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time of the election. The NLD opted to boycott the vote.
Mr. Thein Sein had long been seen as the relatively untainted face of the military government, and it is thought that Senior General Than Shwe regarded him as the most suitable front man for Burma's democratic transition.
He is generally considered to be a moderate and a reformist, and since he became president, there have been undeniable moves towards political liberalization. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest soon after the 2010 election, has been allowed to resume her political activities. Mr. Thein Sein is evidently not opposed to engaging with the veteran opposition leader, and had a landmark meeting with her in August 2011. In November the NLD agreed to re-enter the political process and contest parliamentary by-elections due early in 2012.
A visit to Burma by Hillary Clinton in December 2011, during which the US Secretary of State met both Mr. Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, was hailed by the Burmese president as a "milestone" in the country's history and its relations with the wider world.
Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi pictured with Thein Sein. Photo courtesy of Mizzima News
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Media Coverage in Burma From BBC News Asia-Pacific 12 June 2012
The Burmese media have been strictly controlled since the 1962 military coup. Everything from poetry to films is censored, filtering not only criticism of the government but most bad news, including reports of natural disasters and sometimes even defeats by the national football team.
The state controls the main broadcasters and publications. Output is dominated by formulaic reports about the activities of the ruling generals and progress in the implementation of policies.
Foreign radio is a key source of information. The BBC, Voice of America, US-backed Radio Free Asia and Norway-based opposition station Democratic Voice of Burma target listeners in Burma.
Well-off Burmese have access to some international TV and a limited number of international publications.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has placed Burma among the bottom 10 countries in its world press freedom ranking. It cites "relentless advance censorship" and the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers.
There were 110,000 internet users by June 2010 (Internet World Stats). Access is tightly controlled and further hampered by poor telecoms and an unreliable power supply. RSF calls Burma a "black hole" whose system "increasingly resembles an intranet".
Officials try to block websites containing "suspicious" words, including "drugs, military government, democracy, student movement", according to the US State Department. Internet cafes are heavily policed.
Amid a series of reforms that started in 2011, Burma lifted its ban on international news websites, exiled Burmese news websites and YouTube. It also lifted pre-publication censorship for non-news publications.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the "positive" signals, but said "there is still a long way to go before Burma's news media could be considered even remotely free."
Hawkers arrange newspapers in Rangoon, Burma, on Feb. 10. Media in this country are heavily censored. Photo courtesy of Khin Maung Win/AFP/Getty images
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Burma's Ethnic Conflicts See Slow Progress to Resolution From BBC News Asia-Pacific 25 May 2012
The Burmese authorities are trying to reach lasting peace agreements with the country's many ethnic groups, but it is proving a long and complex process, as the BBC's Jonah Fisher reports.
"Six, seven… hold on probably a few more than that," said David Mathieson, furrowing his brow as he listed Burma's armed groups.
"The Karen, the Karenni, the Shan, the Kachin, the Chin, the United Wa State Army, the Mon, the Mongla… have I forgotten anyone?"
Mr. Mathieson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, has been following developments in Burma closely for the last decade, but understanding its many ethnic wars is enough to give even the most seasoned observer a headache.
We travelled through Shan State to witness one small part of Burma's multi-pronged peace process. Started by President Thein Sein last August, its aim is to bring the country's many festering conflicts to a close.
Our invitation was to accompany the rebel Shan State Army, along with a large group of Thai and Burmese journalists and "Bob", their smartly dressed and secretive American military adviser.
“I trust him [the president], that's why I'm here and why we've stopped fighting” Yawd Suk Shan State Army leader
For Khuen Sae, a veteran Burmese journalist, it was a first proper trip back home for almost 45 years. When he finished school in 1969, he joined the rebel Mong Tai army.
Then, when its warlord leader, Khun Sa, surrendered in 1996, he went into exile in Thailand and started a news agency.
Shan State Army leader Yawk Suk (left) shakes hands with General Soe Win from the Burmese Army. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
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"I feel both excited and sad at the same time," he said.
Whether by accident or because there were no other accommodation options, the Burmese authorities lodged the Shan delegation at a highly sensitive location.
The New Keng Tung hotel is built on the site of what the Shan see as one of the biggest acts of cultural desecration carried out by the ethnic Burmese. In 1991 a Shan royal palace was destroyed here to make way for new buildings.
"When a Burmese palace went into ruins, they rebuilt it." Khuen Sae said. "But they destroyed this one and it was still in existence. This is an example of why the non-Burmese are fighting against the Burmese."
But the choice of hotel did not seem to concern the Shan State Army and their leader, Yawd Serk, too much.
With a fighting force of about 5,000 men, the rebels control small pockets of land near the Thai border and are limited to guerrilla attacks against the Burmese military. For them, President Thein Sein's offer of talks presented a way out.
"The president's announcement of reconciliation and invitation to the armed groups is why we came here," Yawd Serk said. "I trust him, that's why I'm here and why we've stopped fighting." So in a large room at a military guesthouse overlooking Keng Tung, 11 Shan State Army representatives wearing traditional orange tunics sat opposite 11 representatives from the Burmese authorities. In the past, ethnic groups had complained that agreements reached with the government negotiating team carried little weight with the Burmese military on the ground. Shan leaders and Burmese army generals toast the negotiations. This time, there were plenty of men in military fatigues.
Alongside Aung Min, Burma's Railways Minister and chief negotiator sat Soe Win, the deputy commander in chief of the Burmese army, and three regional commanders who operate in Shan State.
The deal they reached after a day of talks was aimed at consolidating December's ceasefire agreement. The exact boundaries of each side’s territory were committed to paper and safe areas for displaced people established.
But this was, more than anything, about building trust and paving the way for future discussions. The government's current strategy is ambitious, some might say impossible.
The Shan, along with other minority groups, have been fighting against the Myanmar government for greater autonomy for decades. Critics say commercial interests are trumping human rights concerns. The government denies such claims, arguing the nation must develop. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong
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"The president has adopted a three-stage roadmap. The first stage is the ceasefire agreements, the second stage political dialogue and then the third stage is a national meeting of all the ethnic groups," Minister Aung Min said after the talks.
"We are planning to complete the process by 2015 within the tenure of this parliament."
That national meeting has been nicknamed "Panglong II" and is due to replace the first Panglong agreement.
That treaty, signed in 1947 by - among others - Aung San San Kyi's father, established the "full autonomy in internal administration" of what was then called Burma's "Frontier Areas", namely the Shan, Chin and Kachin people. For all its noble intentions, it counted for little once the military had taken over.
But while some groups have accepted the offer of talks and a ceasefire, other conflicts discovered new
life. In Kachin in the far north, tens of thousands of people have been displaced by clashes in the last few weeks between rebels and government troops.
“It's going to be incredibly difficult because a lot of the claims by different groups are really quite different”, said David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch.
Some see that as proof that parts of the Burmese army are not following a presidential order calling for restraint, and evidence of a schism between reformers and the military.
The official word from the government delegation at the talks was that the Kachin fighting was due to a "breakdown of communication to remote areas".
Ceasefires being signed and subsequently breaking down have become a recurring part of Burma's post-independence history.
In part, that is because of the fundamental incompatibility of ethnic groups wanting autonomy while the Burmese military tried to impose a strong centralised system.
But with the new civilian-lead government of President Thein Sein and the fast pace of reforms has come a degree of optimism. "It's going to be incredibly difficult because a lot of the claims by different groups are really quite different," said David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch. "The size of the groups and the territories they occupy are also very different but it's not beyond the realms of possibility."
Refugees from Kachin queue for food. Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma
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DEBATE: Dialogue as a Necessary Component of Democracy
From The University of Mississippi
A great way to help students achieve a deeper understanding for the different values and ideas people have is to hold a debate during class. The debate will require two teams (Affirmative and Negative), an interesting and potentially controversial topic, and an audience which in the end chooses which argument makes the best case. Assign about five to seven students to each of the sides, and give the resolution to all the students. The Affirmative side should create a case which highlights the strengths of the resolution, and the Negative side
should prove why the weaknesses evidently outweigh the benefits. The debate should last about one hour and the format for the debate is shown below. Suggested topics for the debate are on the following page. Resolution (2-4 minutes) The resolution is read to the class, and any clarification questions may be asked. Opening Statements (5 minutes) These clarify the position of the side and give a broad and brief introduction as to what will be further detailed in the following argument. Case Presentations (10-15 minutes) The team will give various statements and provide further insights into why their position is stronger than their opponent’s case. Rebuttals (5-7 minutes) After hearing their opponent’s arguments, a five minute break will be allowed to plan a rebuttal. The rebuttal will argue the points made by the opponent, and reinforce the position of the team. Dialogue with the Audience (15 minutes) After hearing both sides of the argument, the audience will have a chance to question each team specifically as to the reasons behind their stance. Closing Remarks (5 minutes) After answering the audience’s questions, the final speech will be one last argument as to why the audience should vote to affirm or negate the resolution. Voting (5 minutes) The teacher will conduct a private vote with the audience and determine whether the resolution stands or not.
Photo courtesy of the University of Nottingham
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Suggested Topics for Debate From The National Forensic League Thunder Data Systems
1. Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need. 2. Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate
response to repeated domestic violence. 3. Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more
innocent people. 4. Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool. 5. Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich
and poor citizens. 6. Resolved: States ought not possess nuclear weapons. 7. Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not
of criminal justice. 8. Resolved: When forced to choose, a just government ought to prioritize universal human
rights over its national interest. 9. Resolved: The United States has a moral obligation to promote just governance in
developing nations. 10. Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives. 11. Resolved: That the United States government has a moral obligation to afford the same
constitutional rights to all people on United States soil. 12. Resolved: A just society ought not use the death penalty as a form of punishment. 13. Resolved: It is just for the United States to use military force to prevent the acquisition of
nuclear weapons by nations that pose a military threat. 14. Resolved: Limiting economic inequality ought to be a more important social goal than
maximizing economic freedom. 15. Resolved: A just government should provide health care to its citizens. 16. Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the
actions of individuals. 17. Resolved: The United Nations' obligation to protect global human rights ought to be
valued above its obligation to respect national sovereignty. 18. Resolved: On balance, violent revolution is a just response to political oppression. 19. Resolved: In matters of U.S. immigration policy, restrictions on the rights of non-citizens
are consistent with democratic ideals. 20. Resolved: In matters of collecting military intelligence, the ends justify the means. 21. Resolved: When in conflict, an individual's freedom of speech should be valued above a
community's moral standards. 22. Resolved: the United States has a moral obligation to promote democratic ideals in other
nations. 23. Resolved: to better protect civil liberties, community standards ought to take precedence
over conflicting national standards. 24. Resolved: the pursuit of scientific knowledge ought to be constrained by concern for
societal good. 25. Resolved: as a general principle, individuals have an obligation to value the common
good above their own interests. 26. Resolved: a nation's citizens' rights ought to take precedence over its security.
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Study Questions: A Brief History of Burma 1. Why is Burma’s economy under-developed, given the country’s abundance of natural resources? 2. How did colonialism help shape modern Burma? 3. What was Aung San’s role in Burma’s democracy movement? 4. Why was Burma isolated from the international community for so long? 5. Why was Aung San Suu Kyi placed under hosue arrest in 1989? Why do you think she was kept there for so long? 6. What are the implications of Burma’s name change to Myanmar for ethnic politics within the country? 7. Why is it important for the current Burmese government to make peace with the country’s many ethnic groups? 8. Why has the international community recently begun to lift economic sanctions on Burma? What consequences do you think engagement will have for the people of Burma? 9. What are the differences between a military dictatorship, like the one that has governed Burma since the 1960s, and a democracy, like our own government? 10. Choose one of the resolutions proposed in the ‘Suggested Topics for Debate’ on page 39 or create a new resolution, and construct an affirmative and negative case upon it
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III. An Introduction to Aung San Suu Kyi
Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast
A. Profile of Aung San Suu Kyi B. The Meaning of Her Name C. Aung San Suu Kyi: A Biography D. Influences on Pro-Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi E. The Legacy of Her Father, Aung San F. Burma TV Marks Suu Kyi father's Martyrs' Day Memorial G. Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Receive United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Elie Wiesel Award at National Tribute Dinner H. Nobel Acceptance Speech I. Study Questions
“As I travel through my country, people often ask me how it feels to have been imprisoned in my home --first for six years, then for 19 months. How could I stand the separation from family and friends? It is ironic, I say, that in an authoritarian state it is only the prisoner of conscience who is genuinely free. Yes, we have given up our right to a normal life. But we have stayed true to that most precious part of our humanity – our conscience.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
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Profile of Aung San Suu Kyi From BBC News Asia-Pacific 29 May 2012 Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.
The 66-year-old spent most of the last two decades in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.
In 1991, a year after her National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory in an election the junta later nullified, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The committee chairman, Francis Sejested, called her "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless".
She was sidelined for Burma's first elections in two decades on 7 November 2010 but released from house arrest six days later.
As the new government embarked on a process of reform, Ms Suu Kyi and her party rejoined the political process.
On 1 April 2012 she stood for parliament in a by-election, arguing it was what her supporters wanted even if the country's reforms were "not irreversible".
She and her fellow NLD candidates won a landslide victory and weeks later the former political prisoner was sworn into parliament, a move unimaginable before the 2010 polls.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the country's independence hero, General Aung San.
He was assassinated during the transition period in July 1947, just six months before independence, when Ms Suu Kyi was only two.
In 1960 she went to India with her mother Daw Khin Kyi, who had been appointed Burma's ambassador to Delhi.
Aung San Suu Kyi stood for election for the first time in 2012. Photo courtesy of Reuters
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Four years later she went to Oxford University in the UK, where she studied philosophy, politics and economics. There she met her future husband, academic Michael Aris.
After stints of living and working in Japan and Bhutan, she settled in the UK to raise their two children, Alexander and Kim, but Burma was never far from her thoughts.
When she arrived back in Rangoon in 1988 - to look after her critically ill mother - Burma was in the midst of major political upheaval.
Thousands of students, office workers and monks took to the streets demanding democratic reform.
"I could not as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on," she said in a speech in Rangoon on 26 August 1988.
Ms Suu Kyi was soon propelled into leading the revolt against the then-dictator, General Ne Win.
Inspired by the non-violent campaigns of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and India's Mahatma Gandhi, she organized rallies and travelled around the country, calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections.
But the demonstrations were brutally suppressed by the army, who seized power in a coup on 18 September 1988.
The military government called national elections in May 1990.
Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD convincingly won the polls, despite the fact that she herself was under house arrest and disqualified from standing.
But the junta refused to hand over control, and has remained in power ever since.
Ms Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Rangoon for six years, until she was released in July 1995.
She was again put under house arrest in September 2000, when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay in defiance of travel restrictions.
Kyi as a baby, (far left), pictured with her family. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph
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She was released unconditionally in May 2002, but just over a year later she was put in prison following a clash between her supporters and a government-backed mob.
She was later allowed to return home - but again under effective house arrest.
During periods of confinement, Ms Suu Kyi busied herself studying and exercising. She meditated, worked on her French and Japanese language skills, and relaxed by playing Bach on the piano.
At times she was able to meet other NLD officials and selected diplomats.
But during her early years of detention, she was often in solitary confinement. She was not allowed to see her two sons or her husband, who died of cancer in March 1999.
The military authorities offered to allow her to travel to the UK to see him when he was gravely ill, but she felt compelled to refuse for fear she would not be allowed back into the country.
Her last period of house arrest ended in November 2010 and her son Kim Aris was allowed to visit her for the first time in a decade.
When by-elections were held in April 2012, to fill seats vacated by politicians who had taken government posts, she and her party contested seats, despite reservations.
"Some are a little bit too optimistic about the situation," she said in an interview before the vote. "We are cautiously optimistic. We are at the beginning of a road."
She and the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats contested, in an emphatic statement of support. Weeks later, Ms Suu Kyi took the oath in parliament and became the leader of the opposition.
And in May, she embarked on a visit outside Burma for the first time in 24 years, in a sign of apparent confidence that Burma's new leaders would allow her to return.
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Aung San Suu Kyi House Arrest Timeline
o 1989: Put under house arrest as Burma junta declares martial law o 1990: NLD wins election; military disregards result o 1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize o 1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted o 2000-02: Second period of house arrest o May 2003: Detained after clash between NLD and junta forces o Sep 2003: Allowed home after medical treatment, but under effective house arrest o May 2007: House arrest is extended for another year o Sept 2007: First public appearance since 2003, greeting protesting Buddhist monks o May 2008: House arrest extended for another year o May 2009: Charged with breaking detention rules after an American swims to her
compound o August 2009: Sentenced to 18 months further house arrest o November 2010: Released from house arrest o April 2012: Stands for parliament for first time
Kyi’s crumbling residence in Burma where she spent years in house arrest. Photo courtesy of thepunch.com.au
“It would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
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The Meaning of Her Name
From New World Encyclopedia 4 February 2012
General Aung San, the country's founding father, broke with his culture's traditions in the naming of his daughter. In Burmese historical tradition, children are seldom named after their parents. However, he gave his name to his two sons as well as to his daughter. To balance the masculinity of the name Aung San -meaning victory- he used both his mother's and wife's names as well. Aung San Suu Kyi, pronounced "Ong Sahn Soo Chee", means "a bright collection of strange victories". This powerful name seems to have been one of great destiny, which Ms. Suu Kyi has gracefully carried.
Aung San Suu Kyi has become a symbol of peaceful resistance in one of the most oppressive nations on Earth. As such, many in Burma and around the world have come to regard her as the "Nelson Mandela of south-east Asia".
Beyond the mere cause of democracy, more fundamentally she reveals the potential for women in positions of leadership, and as peacemakers, and she makes bright the power and potential to be derived from following spiritual principles without compromise.
Doting Nicknames from Followers
In Burma, she is often referred to as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. ‘Daw’ is a respectful name for revered and elderly women, and in general literally means "aunt." She is also frequently called ‘Daw Suu’, ‘Mother Suu’, or ‘Aunty Suu’ by her loving followers in Burma. Around the world she is often referred to as Dr. Suu Kyi, Ms. Suu Kyi.
Kyi pictured at her home as a young girl in Rangoon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Aung San Suu Kyi’s name written in Burmese:
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Aung San Suu Kyi: A Biography From Bio A+E Television Networks, LLC.
Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988, after years living and studying abroad, only to find widespread slaughter of protesters rallying against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win. She spoke out against him and initiated a nonviolent movement toward achieving democracy and human rights. In 1989, the government placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, and she spent 15 of the next 21 years in custody. In 1991, her ongoing efforts won her the Nobel Prize for Peace, and she was finally released from house arrest in November 2010.
Aung San Suu Kyi's father, formerly the de facto prime minister of British Burma, was assassinated in 1947. Her mother, Khin Kyi, was appointed ambassador to India in 1960. Suu Kyi obtained a bachelor's degree from the University of Oxford in 1969, and in 1972, she married. She had two children—in 1973 and 1977—and the family spent the 1970s and 1980s in England, the United States and India.
In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma to care for her dying mother, and her life took a dramatic turn.
Return to Burma
In 1962, Burma dictator U Ne Win staged and carried out a coup d'état in Burma, which spurred intermittent protests over his policies for the subsequent decades. By 1988, he had resigned his post of party chairman, essentially leaving the country in the hands of a military junta, but stayed behind the scenes to orchestrate various violent responses to the continuing protests and other events.
Suu Kyi returned to Burma from abroad in 1988, amidst the slaughter of protesters rallying against U Ne Win and his iron-fisted rule. She began speaking out against him, with democracy and human rights at the fore of her struggle. It did not take long for the junta to notice her efforts, and in July of 1989, the military government of Burma—which was renamed the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989—placed Suu Kyi under house arrest and cut off any communication she might have with the outside world. Though the Union military told Suu Kyi that if she agreed to leave the country, they would free her, she refused to do so, insisting that her struggle would continue until the junta released the
July 20, 1989: Aung San Suu Kyi gestures while addressing thousands of people at a rally in Rangoon in which she criticized the country's military rulers. Picture courtesy of REUTERS
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country to civilian government and political prisoners were freed. In 1990, a parliamentary election was held, and the party with which Suu Kyi was now affiliated—the National League for Democracy—won more than 80 percent of the parliamentary seats. The election results, though, were predictably ignored by the junta. Twenty years later, they formally annulled the results.
Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July 1995, and the next year she attended the NLD party congress, under the continual harassment of the military. Three years later, she founded a representative committee and declared it as the country's legitimate ruling body, and in response, in September 2000; the junta once again placed her under house arrest. She was released in May of 2002.
In 2003, the NLD clashed in the streets with pro-government demonstrators, and Suu Kyi was yet again arrested and placed under house arrest. Her sentence was then renewed yearly, and the international community came to her aid each time, calling continually for her release (to no avail).
Arrest and Election
In May of 2009, just before she was set to be released from house arrest, Suu Kyi was arrested yet again, this time charged with an actual crime—allowing an intruder to spend two nights at her home, a violation of her terms of house arrest. The intruder, an American named John Yettaw, had swum to her house to warn her after having a vision of an attempt on her life. He was also subsequently imprisoned, returning to the United States in August 2009.
That same year, the United Nations declared that Suu Kyi's detention was illegal under Myanmar law. In August, however, Suu Kyi went to trial, and was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The sentence was reduced to 18 months, however, and she was allowed to serve it as a continuation of her house arrest.
American John Yettaw (C) arrives in Thailand's military airbase in Bangkok August 16, 2009. A U.S. senator met Myanmar's top general and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while arranging the release of prisoner Yettaw on a weekend mission that offered a rare opening for better ties with the isolated nation. Yettaw's swim to Suu Kyi's home in May led to her renewed detention. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang
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Influences on Pro-Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi
From Public Broadcasting Service-Frontline World By Singeli Agnew WGBH Educational Foundation October 2006
This month, Aung San Suu Kyi spent her 4,000th day under house arrest in her compound in Rangoon. Although the world has not heard from her in three years, her power -- as a symbol of freedom and democracy for the people of Burma -- has only grown during her long years in forced isolation.
Her persistence and quiet courage have inspired years of sustained opposition to the military regime. "Free men," Aung San Suu Kyi said in her book, Freedom from Fear, "are the oppressed who go on trying."
Timing, fate and a seemingly predestined ability as a leader have put Suu Kyi at the center of Burma’s political struggles. When Suu Kyi was born in 1945, her country was in the midst of a struggle for independence after alternating between British and Japanese rule. Her father, Gen. Aung San, was hailed as a hero of the movement but was assassinated by a political rival in July 1947, during the transition to independence. Aung San
Suu Kyi was only 2 years old.
In 1960, her mother, Daw Khin Kyi, also a prominent public figure, was appointed Burma's ambassador to Delhi, and Suu Kyi left Burma. Two years later, the military seized control of the country, nationalizing the economy, banning independent newspapers and pushing Burma into political isolation.
In 1964 Suu Kyi moved to Britain to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. Several years later, she moved to New York, where she did graduate studies, worked with the United Nations and volunteered at a hospital. In 1972, Suu Kyi married Michael Aris, a Himalayan scholar she met in Oxford. In a prescient vow, Aris promised Suu Kyi that he would not get in the way of her duty to her country. They both knew that Burma might soon call her back.
The couple moved to Bhutan, where Aris tutored the royal family and headed the translation department. After returning to Oxford, they had two sons, Alexander and Kim. Suu Kyi began writing a biography of her father, busied herself with mothering and helped Aris with his Himalayan studies.
Aung San Suu Kyi, center, is seen with her parents Aung San, mother Daw Khin Kyi, and two brothers in 1947. Photo courtesy of AP-Photo/Kyodo
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Then, in 1988, Suu Kyi received word that her mother had suffered a severe stroke and didn’t have long to live. She returned to Burma the next day.
At the same time, the seams had burst on the Burmese tolerance of authoritarian rule. For two decades, their society had been tightly closed and controlled, while the economy spiraled downward. Thousands of students and workers took to the streets, demanding democratic reform. The Burmese army opened fire on demonstrators, and thousands were killed. As she cared for her mother in her family home, Suu Kyi was drawn into the firestorm.
"I could not, as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on," Suu Kyi said in a speech in Rangoon on 26 August 1988.
She was soon leading a revolt against the dictator, Gen. Ne Win, organizing rallies and traveling the country with a call for democratic reform and free elections. Her political career had begun.
In January 1989, Suu Kyi’s mother died. After a huge funeral procession, Suu Kyi vowed that -- like her parents -- she, too, would serve the people of Burma, unafraid of death. In a famous moment in the Irrawaddy Delta, Suu Kyi bravely defied the military, walking past soldiers with their rifles drawn. She was soon placed under house arrest, without trial or charge.
In 1990, in a rare act of concession, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) held the first free elections in 30 years. To its surprise, Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won more than 60 percent of the vote and more than 80 percent of the parliamentary seats. But the junta refused to recognize the election results and tightened its grip on the country.
Suu Kyi, still under house arrest, continued to provide inspiration to her followers. In 1991, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for being -- as Francis Sejested, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, said -- "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless.”
Her son, Alexander, accepted the prize for her. “The lonely struggle taking place in a heavily guarded compound in Rangoon,” said Alexander in his acceptance speech, “is part of the much
Aung San Suu Kyi pictured with her husband, Michael Aris, and her son. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph
While under house arrest, Kyi spent time reading and listening to the radio. Photo courtesy of wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com
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larger struggle, worldwide, for the emancipation of the human spirit from political tyranny and psychological subjection.”
In 1995 Suu Kyi was released, after sustained political pressure from the international community. She immediately plunged into political organizing again. In 1999, her husband, then in England, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Suu Kyi knew that, if she left the country to visit him, the government (which urged her to go to England) would never let her back in to the country. Aris tried to come to Burma to see her one last time but was denied permission. He died in March 2000, not having seen his wife in years.
In 2000, Suu Kyi was again locked into the house she knew so well, having broken the terms of her release and attempted to travel outside Rangoon to attend political meetings. In 2002, she was released. Thousands of cheering supporters welcomed her outside her home. But the freedom was short-lived, and Suu Kyi was detained again in 2003 for her continued political activity. The latest detention has been indefinitely extended, despite appeals from U.N. Secretary Gen. Kofi Annan.
"I am relying on you, General Than Shwe, to do the right thing," Annan said, addressing the military leader in May of this year. The plea fell on deaf ears: Suu Kyi’s peaceful words proved too dangerous to their military grip on the country.
Suu Kyi, now 60, spends much of her time in meditation. Her children have grown up, mostly without her presence. At every chance, she continues to speak out against the military government and its human rights abuses. She has requested tourists not to visit her country and has discouraged international investment in the country.
“The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit,” said Suu Kyi in her 1991 book, Freedom From Fear. “It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and
human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle; to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths; to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.”
SOURCES: BBC; NobelPrize.Org; Columbia University East Asian Studies; Dassk.org; Irrawaddy news magazine; Open Society Institute; New Internationalist
Kyi is reunited with her son after 10 years of house arrest. Photo courtesy of joswain.org
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The Legacy of Her Father, Aung San From Burma’s Challenge By Aung San 1946
Born on the 13th February, 1915, at Natmauk, the headquarters of a township in Magwe district, the author is a scion of well-to-do rural gentry and a distinguished line of patriotic ancestors.
Educated first in the Vernacular High School, Natmauk, then in National High School, Yenangyaung, he was a graduate of the Rangoon University in the Arts, taking English Literature, Modern History and Political Science and read for some time in Law in the same University. Though he gave promise of brilliant academic career in his early days winning prizes and scholarships, political interests and activities as a nationally prominent student leader in his university days affected his academic career. For agitation for his fellow students' rights and grievances, he was threatened twice with expulsion from his college and actually under order of rustication from the Rangoon University for three years which was an immediate cause of the students' country-wide strikes in Burma early in 1936, of which he was also one of the prominent leaders. He lost one year in his academic career for that event.
As a student in the Rangoon University, he served on various students' organizations and bodies, notably as Editor, Vice-President and President of the Rangoon University Students' Union, and as one of the founders and President of All-Burma Students' Union. He also served, even as a student, along with another student representative, on the University Act Amendment Committee appointed by Government of the day early in 1938 and succeeded in getting a fairly progressive University Act passed by the Burma Legislature, and Act which had been the source of so much country-wide students' agitations and strikes in 1920 and 1936. He also contributed articles to local English and Burmese press as a student and served for a time on the editorial staff of New Burma the only Burma-owned and managed nationalist, tri-weekly in English in those days. In October 1938, he ended his law studies abruptly, in order to place his services for the patriotic cause of national freedom, by joining the Dohbama Asi-ayone (Thakins), at that time the only militant and intensely nationalistic political party in Burma.
Bogyoke Aung San, Daw Su (his mother), Daw Khin Kyi and their children (Aung San Oo, Aung San Lin, and Aung San Suu Kyi). Photo courtesy of AP Photo
General Aung San, the leader of Burma’s independence movement, and the father of Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo courtesy of theonlinecitizen.com
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He was General Secretary of that party since about his joining of the party till August 1940 when he evaded arrest and went underground to continue the fight for his country' freedom. As a Thakin leader, he was arrested and detained early in 1939 for being one of those leading "a conspiracy to overthrow Government by force" according to Government communiqué of the day but was released shortly after. As General Secretary of the Thakin Party, "there was no doubt that he worked hard….." and was one of the triumvirate who made Dohbama Asi-ayone (the official title of Thakin Party) "such a subversive movement it today is" as written in Government records of that time, responsible for formulation of a number of important decisions and policies of the party. He served also on the Working Committee of the All-Burma Peasants' League and was one of the principal figures initiating a Freedom Bloc of parties and elements interested in the struggle for Burma's freedom, along with Dr. Ba Maw, during 1939-40. He also acted as Secretary of that Freedom Bloc till he went underground. In March 1940, he led a Thakin delegation to the Ramgarh Session of the Indian National Congress at the latter's invitation and visited Gaya, Benares, Allahabad, Agra, Delhi, Peshawar, Khyber Pass, Lahore, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bombay and Calcutta in India. After he came back from India, he served for a short time on the Governing Body of University College, Rangoon, as a representative of the Rangoon University Students' Union while conducting an intensive anti-imperialist, anti-war campaign in Burma. A warrant for his arrest came out, and he evaded the warrant and went underground, even though the warrant had to be withdrawn later owing to signs of unrest created amongst the youth in Burma on account of the warrant.
He then went to Amoy, China, to seek international contacts and aid for his country's freedom struggle and stayed for about two months in the International Settlement there, when the Japanese came and took him to Tokyo as the contact was arranged by his comrades in Burma. In Tokyo, he stayed for about three months and came back to Burma early in 1941, to communicate the plans given by the Japanese to his comrades in Burma. He went back to Tokyo soon after, taking with him the first batch of young men to be given military training by the Japanese for the purpose of leading an insurrection in Burma.
Early in 1942, he came to Bangkok and there organized the Burma Independence Army with the help of the Japanese. He marched into Burma, along with the latter, when they invaded Burma. Ever since he and his comrades were in Japan, they had conflicts with the Japanese which became more and more intensified as the Japanese marched into Burma and persecuted the people more and more. He even tried to organize an anti-Japanese movement before he came into Burma and after the Japanese occupation of Rangoon without success. But the fact of anti-Japanese sentiments in the Burma Independence Army were well known in the country, and for that reason and because of the machinations of anti-B.I.A. political opponents taking advantage of certain excesses committed by some "B.I.A. administrations" formed in the rear under the authority of the then Japanese Commander of B.I.A. etcetera, the B.I.A. was reorganized into a much more retrenched Burma Defense Army(B.D.A) when he became Commander of that Army with the rank of full colonel.
Aung San is remembered as the father of Burmese democracy. Photo courtesy of Google Earth
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In March, 1943, he and Dr. Ba Maw along with two others were invited to Tokyo by the Japanese Government, were promoted to the rank of Major-General, had an audience with the Japanese Emperor and decorated with the Third Class Order of the Rising Sun. When he came back from Tokyo, he gave a broad hint at a reception given in honor of the Tokyo visitors that the independence coming to Burma was more or less "nominal". He then was appointed on the Independence Preparatory Commission for presenting questions relating to Burma's defense and the B.D.A. of which he was commander. Later, with the inauguration of the so-called Burma Independent State, he became defense Minister, with the rank of major-general, was decorated again on its anniversary with the First Class Order of Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government along with several others, but he made an open anti-Japanese speech at the ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Burma's independence, attacking the nominal independence of Burma. That speech was reported to have repercussions even in Tokyo government circles.
He attempted again to form an anti-Japanese Resistance Movement from 1943 and succeeded in forming the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League in August 1944. He came into contact with the Allied Headquarters towards the close of 1943. Finally he led the open general rising against the Japanese militarists on 27th March 1945. In September 1945, he and ten other colleagues went to Kandy to conclude a military agreement for the amalgamation of the Patriotic Burmese Forces (as the Resistance Forces were then called) with the Burma Army under British control. He was offered the post of Deputy Inspector-General of the Burma Army with the rank of brigadier by Lord Louis Mountbatten on behalf of the British Government, but he nominated one of his deputies to that post, while he himself left the Army to continue to strive for the independence of his country. He became President of the Anti-fascist People's Freedom League in August 1945 and was re-elected in that office at the first congress of the AFPFL held in January 1946, attended by over one thousand three hundred delegates from all over Burma and attended by nearly one hundred thousand people on its opening day. In October 1946, he was asked to put up eleven names for participation in the Governors Executive Council. But as he could not obtain satisfactory terms from the Governor, he withdrew his nominations. But such was and has been the popular sanction behind him and AFPFL of which he is President that even the British Government in Britain was compelled to admit in their Parliament the popularity of AFPFL and keep the doors "still open" for AFPFL to come into the Governor's Executive Council.
Aung San Suu Kyi places a basket of flowers at the grave of her father, Aung San. Photo courtesy of Day Life News
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Burma TV marks Suu Kyi Father's Martyrs' Day Memorial
From BBC News Asia 19 July 2012 Burmese state TV has shown live footage of a ceremony honoring the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in what is seen as another sign of change.
The ceremony, marking the 65th anniversary of Gen Aung San's assassination, was also attended by a high-level government representative.
Aung San is seen as the driving force in Burma's independence from Britain.
Burma's military junta downplayed the event for many years, but a process of reform is now under way in the country.
Ms Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, laid flowers at her father's tomb in Rangoon to mark what is known as Martyrs' Day.
Flags were flown at half mast and a period of silence was observed. One of Burma's two vice-presidents, Sai Mauk Hkam, was in attendance.
Gen Aung San was 32 years old when he and several members of his interim government were assassinated by political opponents in 1947.
The military ruled Burma for decades, but reforms have been taking place since polls in November 2010 that brought a transition from military to nominally civilian rule.
Ms Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest in late 2010 and made her debut in parliament earlier this month, after winning a seat in an April by-election.
Ms Suu Kyi prayed at the tomb of her father, independence leader Gen Aung San. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Receive United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Elie Wiesel Award at National Tribute Dinner Excerpted from Media Release The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 9 April 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Elie Wiesel Award will be awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and the leader of Burma’s democracy movement, at the Museum’s annual National Tribute Dinner on Wednesday, April 18. Aung San Suu Kyi is being recognized for her exceptional courage and leadership in resisting tyranny and advancing the dignity and freedom of the Burmese people through nonviolence. Academy Award-winner Natalie Portman, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein and White
House Chief of Staff Jacob J. Lew will deliver remarks.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is an extraordinary woman whose battle for her people’s freedom remains an inspiration to many others. Her moral courage facing dictatorship is exemplary. Few leaders have done so much, for such a long period, for the honor of true democracy,” said award namesake Elie Wiesel. “The Museum’s decision to honor her will remain a source of pride to those who believe in memory’s power to vanquish injustice.”
Historic Parliamentary elections took place in Burma on April 1. Aung San Suu Kyi, after enduring years of persecution and house arrest, won a seat in Burma’s Parliament with other members of the National League for Democracy party. Due to the political situation in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi will accept the award by video message.
Aung San Suu Kyi signs the registration list as she arrives at the lower house of parliament in Naypyidaw on July 9, 2012. Photo courtesy of Soe Than Win/AFP/GettyImages.
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Established in 2011, the award is named in honor of its inaugural recipient, Nobel Peace laureate and Museum Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel. It is given annually to an internationally prominent individual whose actions have advanced the Museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Engraved on the award are words from Elie Wiesel’s Nobel speech, “One person of integrity can make a difference.”
“When we think of those few individuals who during the Holocaust took such grave risks to save a fellow human being, we recognize the enormous difference they made and we rightly call them heroes,” says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “‘Hero’ is an overused word, but Aung San Suu Kyi is a true hero and like the rescuers, she is a great inspiration for everyone who cares about freedom.”
“There are certain things we must not forget, because we would not like these to be repeated in the future. And I thank and honor all of you who are trying to make known to the world what should not happen again. And individuals can make all the difference – individuals who survive in spite of the greatest cruelty – in spite of the greatest trials and to teach other people that it’s possible to survive. And to you all who have not only survived but helped others to survive – by speaking of your experiences – and by teaching them how to be brave and how NOT to lose your integrity in the face of the greatest difficulty, I would like to say, thank you. I honor you. I respect you. And I hope that I too will be able to be like you.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel light a ceremonial torch at the dedication of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 22, 1993. Photo courtesy of Diana Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
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Nobel Acceptance Speech
From The Nobel Foundation By Aung San Suu Kyi 16 June 2012
The Nobel Peace Prize 1991
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Dear Friends,
Long years ago, sometimes it seems many lives ago, I was at Oxford listening to the radio programme Desert Island Discs with my young son Alexander. It was a well-known programme (for all I know it still continues) on which famous people from all walks of life were invited to talk about the eight discs, the one book beside the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, and the one
luxury item they would wish to have with them were they to be marooned on a desert island. At the end of the programme, which we had both enjoyed, Alexander asked me if I thought I might ever be invited to speak on Desert Island Discs. “Why not?” I responded lightly. Since he knew that in general only celebrities took part in the programme he proceeded to ask, with genuine interest, for what reason I thought I might be invited. I considered this for a moment and then answered: “Perhaps because I’d have won the Nobel Prize for literature,” and we both laughed. The prospect seemed pleasant but hardly probable.
(I cannot now remember why I gave that answer, perhaps because I had recently read a book by a Nobel Laureate or perhaps because the Desert Island celebrity of that day had been a famous writer.)
In 1989, when my late husband Michael Aris came to see me during my first term of house arrest, he told me that a friend, John Finnis, had nominated me for the Nobel Peace Prize. This time also I laughed. For an instant Michael looked amazed, then he realized why I was amused. The Nobel Peace Prize? A pleasant prospect, but quite improbable! So how did I feel when I was actually awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace? The question has been put to me many times and this is surely the most appropriate occasion on which to examine what the Nobel Prize means to me and what peace means to me.
As I have said repeatedly in many an interview, I heard the news that I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the radio one evening. It did not altogether come as a surprise because I had been mentioned as one of the frontrunners for the prize in a number of broadcasts during the
Photo courtesy of TIME magazine
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previous week. While drafting this lecture, I have tried very hard to remember what my immediate reaction to the announcement of the award had been. I think, I can no longer be sure, it was something like: “Oh, so they’ve decided to give it to me.” It did not seem quite real because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time.
Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world. There was the house which was my world, there was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community, and there was the world of the free; each was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe. What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize. It had made me real once again; it had drawn me back into the wider human community. And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten.
To be forgotten. The French say that to part is to die a little. To be forgotten too is to die a little. It is to lose some of the links that anchor us to the rest of humanity. When I met Burmese migrant workers and refugees during my recent visit to Thailand, many cried out: “Don’t forget us!” They meant: “don’t forget our plight, don’t forget to do what you can to help us, don’t forget we also belong to your world.” When the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to me they were recognizing that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognizing the oneness of humanity. So for me receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.
The Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome. The word nyein-chan translates literally as the beneficial coolness that comes when a fire is extinguished. Fires of suffering and strife are raging around the world. In my own country, hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today. News of atrocities in other reaches of the earth abound. Reports of hunger, disease, displacement, joblessness, poverty, injustice, discrimination, prejudice, bigotry; these are our daily fare. Everywhere there are negative forces eating away at the foundations of peace. Everywhere can be found thoughtless dissipation of material and human resources that are necessary for the conservation of harmony and happiness in our world.
The First World War represented a terrifying waste of youth and potential, a cruel squandering of the positive forces of our planet. The poetry of that era has a special significance for me because I first read it at a time when I was the same age as many of those young men who had to face the prospect of withering before they had barely blossomed. A young American fighting with the French Foreign Legion wrote before he was killed in action in 1916 that he would meet his death: “at some disputed barricade;” “on some scarred slope of battered hill;” “at midnight in some flaming town.” Youth and love and life perishing forever in senseless attempts to capture
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nameless, unremembered places. And for what? Nearly a century on, we have yet to find a satisfactory answer.
Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.
A positive aspect of living in isolation was that I had ample time in which to ruminate over the meaning of words and precepts that I had known and accepted all my life. As a Buddhist, I had heard about dukha, generally translated as suffering, since I was a small child. Almost on a daily basis elderly, and sometimes not so elderly, people around me would murmur “dukha, dukha” when they suffered from aches and pains or when they met with some small, annoying mishaps. However, it was only during my years of house arrest that I got around to investigating the nature of the six great dukha. These are: to be conceived, to age, to sicken, to die, to be parted from those one loves, to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love. I examined each of the six great sufferings, not in a religious context but in the context of our ordinary, everyday lives. If suffering were an unavoidable part of our existence, we should try to alleviate it as far as possible in practical, earthly ways. I mulled over the effectiveness of ante- and post-natal programmes and mother and childcare; of adequate facilities for the aging population; of comprehensive health services; of compassionate nursing and hospices. I was particularly intrigued by the last two kinds of suffering: to be parted from those one loves and to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love. What experiences might our Lord Buddha have undergone in his own life that he had included these two states among the great sufferings? I thought of prisoners and refugees, of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, of that great mass of the uprooted of the earth who have been torn away from their homes, parted from families and friends, forced to live out their lives among strangers who are not always welcoming.
We are fortunate to be living in an age when social welfare and humanitarian assistance are recognized not only as desirable but necessary. I am fortunate to be living in an age when the fate of prisoners of conscience anywhere has become the concern of peoples everywhere, an age when democracy and human rights are widely, even if not universally, accepted as the birthright of all. How often during my years under house arrest have I drawn strength from my favourite passages in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
……. disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspirations of the common people,
…… it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law . . .
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If I am asked why I am fighting for human rights in Burma the above passages will provide the answer. If I am asked why I am fighting for democracy in Burma, it is because I believe that democratic institutions and practices are necessary for the guarantee of human rights.
Over the past year there have been signs that the endeavors of those who believe in democracy and human rights are beginning to bear fruit in Burma. There have been changes in a positive direction; steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith. Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years. Some of our warriors fell at their post, some deserted us, but a dedicated core remained strong and committed. At times when I think of the years that have passed, I am amazed that so many remained staunch under the most trying circumstances. Their faith in our cause is not blind; it is based on a clear-eyed assessment of their own powers of endurance and a profound respect for the aspirations of our people.
It is because of recent changes in my country that I am with you today; and these changes have come about because of you and other lovers of freedom and justice who contributed towards a global awareness of our situation. Before continuing to speak of my country, may I speak out for our prisoners of conscience. There still remain such prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten. I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many. Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to affect their earliest, unconditional release.
Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union. Since we achieved independence in 1948, there never has been a time when we could claim the whole country was at peace. We have not been able to develop the trust and understanding necessary to remove causes of conflict. Hopes were raised by ceasefires that were maintained from the early 1990s until 2010 when these broke down over the course of a few months. One unconsidered move can be enough to remove long-standing ceasefires. In recent months, negotiations between the government and ethnic nationality forces have been making progress. We hope that ceasefire agreements will lead to political settlements founded on the aspirations of the peoples, and the spirit of union.
My party, the National League for Democracy, and I stand ready and willing to play any role in the process of national reconciliation. The reform measures that were put into motion by President U Thein Sein’s government can be sustained only with the intelligent cooperation of all internal forces: the military, our ethnic nationalities, political parties, the media, civil society organizations, the business community and, most important of all, the general public. We can say that reform is effective only if the lives of the people are improved and in this regard, the international community has a vital role to play. Development and humanitarian aid, bi-lateral agreements and investments should be coordinated and calibrated to ensure that these will promote social, political and economic growth that is balanced and sustainable. The potential of
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our country is enormous. This should be nurtured and developed to create not just a more prosperous but also a more harmonious, democratic society where our people can live in peace, security and freedom.
The peace of our world is indivisible. As long as negative forces are getting the better of positive forces anywhere, we are all at risk. It may be questioned whether all negative forces could ever be removed. The simple answer is: “No!” It is in human nature to contain both the positive and the negative. However, it is also within human capability to work to reinforce the positive and to minimize or neutralize the negative. Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveler in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation. Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavors to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.
I used the word ‘kinder’ after careful deliberation; I might say the careful deliberation of many years. Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people. Norway has shown exemplary kindness in providing a home for the displaced of the earth, offering sanctuary to those who have been cut loose from the moorings of security and freedom in their native lands.
There are refugees in all parts of the world. When I was at the Maela refugee camp in Thailand recently, I met dedicated people who were striving daily to make the lives of the inmates as free from hardship as possible. They spoke of their concern over ‘donor fatigue,’ which could also translate as ‘compassion fatigue.’ ‘Donor fatigue’ expresses itself precisely in the reduction of funding. ‘Compassion fatigue’ expresses itself less obviously in the reduction of concern. One is the consequence of the other. Can we afford to indulge in compassion fatigue? Is the cost of meeting the needs of refugees greater than the cost that would be consequent on turning an indifferent, if not a blind, eye on their suffering? I appeal to donors the world over to fulfill the needs of these people who are in search, often it must seem to them a vain search, of refuge.
At Maela, I had valuable discussions with Thai officials responsible for the administration of Tak province where this and several other camps are situated. They acquainted me with some of the more serious problems related to refugee camps: violation of forestry laws, illegal drug use, home brewed spirits, the problems of controlling malaria, tuberculosis, dengue fever and cholera. The concerns of the administration are as legitimate as the concerns of the refugees. Host countries also deserve consideration and practical help in coping with the difficulties related to their responsibilities.
Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace. Every thought, every word, and every action
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that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness.
The Nobel Committee concluded its statement of 14 October 1991 with the words: “In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize ... to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.” When I joined the democracy movement in Burma it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honor. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential. The honor lay in our endeavor. History had given us the opportunity to give of our best for a cause in which we believed. When the Nobel Committee chose to honor me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow. For this I thank the Committee, the people of Norway and peoples all over the world whose support has strengthened my faith in the common quest for peace. Thank you.
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses a crowd of supporters. Photo courtesy of Voices Education Project
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Study Questions: An Introduction to Aung San Suu Kyi
1. Aung San Suu Kyi once said "I could not, as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on," in a speech in Rangoon on August 26th, 1988. What does she mean by that statement? 2. Based on the information in this chapter, how do you think Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal struggles, like spending years under house arrest and not getting to say goodbye to her dying husband, impacted her? 3. How has she used these challenges to strengthen her personal resolve to promote democracy in Burma? 4. Why do you think Aung San Suu Kyi readily sacrificed so much for her country? 5. The definition of Aung San Suu Kyi’s name is “a bright collection of strange victories.” Many have observed that this meaning aptly describes her life and work. Identify events in her life that reflect the meaning of her name. 6. Imagine yourself under house arrest for 15 years. How would you spend your free time? Would you try to stay in touch with the outside world, like Aung San Suu Kyi? How? Explain. 7. Why do you think Aung San Suu Kyi decided to become a member of Parliament, considering her opposition to Burma’s military regime? 8. How do you think Aung San Suu Kyi can use her allies in Europe, America, and other countries to make positive change in her country? 9. Where did Aung San Suu Kyi get the strength and courage to endure so many years of under house arrest? 10. How do you think Aung San Suu Kyi’s travels before house arrest affected her overall worldview?
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IV. Buddhism and Its Impact on Aung San Suu Kyi
Photo courtesy of The Global Post
A. Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Buddhism has influenced my worldview’ B. Following the Buddha's Footsteps C. Main Buddhist Festivals D. Study Questions
"Buddhism, the foundation of traditional Burmese culture, places the greatest value on man, who alone of all beings can achieve the supreme state of Buddhahood. Each man has in him the potential to realize the truth through his own will and endeavor and to help others to realize it." Finally she says, "The quest for democracy in Burma is the struggle of a people to live whole, meaningful lives as free and equal members of the world community. It is part of the unceasing human endeavor to prove that the spirit of man can transcend the flaws of his nature." - Aung San Suu Kyi
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Aung San Suu Kyi : ‘Buddhism has influenced my worldview’
From The Washington Post By Sally Quinn 1 December 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner at the US Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon, Myanmar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. Yesterday the Council on Foreign Relations had a live video interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident who spent more than 15 years in custody. Today, she received a visit from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During her talk with the council, Suu Kyi was open and forthright about the issues facing her
country. Despite all of the horrors she has been through, there wasn’t a trace of anger or bitterness in her remarks.
I found her a truly remarkable person. I have never met anyone like her before except for Nelson Mandela, who later became president of the nation that imprisoned him.
QUESTIONER: I’m Sally Quinn from the Washington Post, editor-in-chief of “On Faith.” And like Fred Hiatt, my colleague, I wish you would write for us. (Laughter.) This is more of a personal question. I don’t know what I expected to see from you today, maybe somebody looking very tired and worn and maybe a little embittered. And yet I see an incredibly cheerful and optimistic person before me. And given what you have been through in the last 15 or 20 years, which none of us can really imagine, what has gotten you through all of this? You have talked about how we mustn’t -- we want restorative, not punitive. And you’ve said, let’s forget the past. Is it your faith that’s gotten you through this and brought you to the point where now you can be as optimistic and as cheerful and as forward-looking as you are?
SUU KYI: Well, let me answer you bit by bit. So -- secondly, I am tired -- in fact, rather sleepy as well. But I’m glad it doesn’t show. (Laughter.)
And thirdly -- well, I’m not embittered. But I have to say that I’m not saying forget the past. We must face the past. We can’t forget it. But we don’t need to remember it with bitterness. We don’t need to remember it with anger. We need the past in order to -- we need to remember the past in order to avoid the kind of mistakes we’ve made then in the future. So we need the past in order to help us live the future better -- the present and the future better.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
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And you asked if it was anything to do with my faith. I suppose you mean with my religion. I suppose partly it must have something to do with that because, well, I am a believing Buddhist, so I am sure the teachings of Buddhism do affect the way I think.
But more than that, I would state that when I started out in politics, in this movement for democracy, I always started out with the idea that this should be a process that would bring greater happiness, greater harmony and greater peace to our nation. And this cannot be done if you are going to be bound by anger and by desire for
revenge. So I’ve never thought that the way to go forward was through anger and bitterness, but through understanding, trying to understand the other side, and through the ability to negotiate with people who think quite differently from you and to agree to disagree if necessary -- if necessary and to somehow bring harmony out of different ways of thinking.
“The wellspring of courage and endurance in the face of unbridled power is generally a firm belief in the sanctity of ethical principles combined with a historical sense that despite all setbacks the condition of man is set on an ultimate course for both spiritual and material advancement. It is his capacity for self-improvement and self-redemption which most distinguishes man from the mere brute. At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
Kyi says that Buddhism has changed the way that she views the world. Photo courtesy of Hindustan Times
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Following the Buddha's Footsteps
Elementary Lesson Plan From Instilling Goodness School, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA Life in the Palace
Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world. It began around 2,500 years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama discovered how to bring happiness into the world. He was born around 566 BC, in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. His father was King Suddhodana and his
mother was Queen Maya.
Soon after Prince Siddhartha was born, the wise men predicted that he would become a Buddha. When the king heard this, he was deeply disturbed, for he wanted his son to become a mighty ruler. He told Queen Maya, "I will make life in the palace so pleasant that our son will never want to leave."
At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married a beautiful princess, Yasodhara. The king built them three palaces, one for each season, and lavished them with luxuries. They passed their days in enjoyment and never thought about life outside the palace.
The Four Sights
Soon Siddhartha became disillusioned with the palace life and wanted to see the outside world. He made four trips outside the palace and saw four things that changed his life. On the first three
trips, he saw sickness, old age and death. He asked himself, "How can I enjoy a life of pleasure when there is so much suffering in the world?"
On his fourth trip, he saw a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. "I shall be like him." Siddhartha thought.
Leaving his kingdom and loved ones behind, Siddhartha became a wandering monk. He cut off his hair to show that he had renounced the worldly lifestyle and called himself Gautama. He wore ragged robes and wandered from place to place. In his search for truth, he studied with the
Photo courtesy of Tourism of Cambodia
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wisest teachers of his day. None of them knew how to end suffering, so he continued the search on his own.
For six years he practiced severe asceticism thinking this would lead him to enlightenment. He sat in meditation and ate only roots, leaves and fruit. At times he ate nothing. He could endure more hardships than anyone else, but this did not take him anywhere. He thought, "Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. Overdoing things can not lead to happiness. “He began to eat nourishing food again and regained his strength.
On a full-moon day in May, he sat under the Bodhi tree in deep meditation and said. "I will not leave this spot until I find an end to suffering." During the night, he was visited by Mara, the evil one, who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path. First he sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into pleasure. Next he sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain. Last he sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks. One by one, Gautama met the armies and defeated them with his virtue.
As the struggle ended, he realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He had gained the most supreme wisdom and understood things as they truly are. He became the Buddha, 'The Awakened One'. From then on, he was called Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Buddha Teaches
After his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park near the holy city of Benares and shared his new understanding with five holy men. They understood immediately and became his disciples. This marked the beginning of the Buddhist community.
For the next forty-five years, the Buddha and his disciples went from place to place in India spreading the Dharma, his teachings. Their compassion knew no bounds; they helped everyone along the way, beggars, kings and slave girls. At night, they would sleep where they were; when hungry they would ask for a little food.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
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Whenever the Buddha went, he won the hearts of the people because he dealt with their true feelings. He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith, but to decide for themselves whether his teachings are right or wrong, then follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue, "You should do your own work, for I can teach only the way."
He never became angry or impatient or spoke harshly to anyone, not even to those who opposed him. He always taught in such a way that everyone could understand. Each person thought the Buddha was speaking especially for him. The Buddha told his followers to help each other on the Way. Following is a story of the Buddha living as an example to his disciples.
Once, the Buddha and Ananda visited a monastery where a monk was suffering from a contagious disease. The poor man lay in a mess with no one looking after him. The Buddha himself washed the sick monk and placed him on a new bed. Afterwards, he admonished the other monks. "Monks, you have neither mother nor father to look after you. If you do not look after each other, who will look after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering, serves me."
The Last Years
Shakyamuni Buddha passed away around 486 BC at the age of eighty. Although he has left the world, the spirit of his kindness and compassion remains.
The Buddha realized that that he was not the first to become a Buddha. "There have been many Buddhas before me and will be many Buddhas in the future," The Buddha recalled to his disciples. "All living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas." For this reason, he taught the way to Buddhahood.
The two main goals of Buddhism are getting to know ourselves and learning the Buddha's teachings. To know who we are, we need to understand that we have two natures. One is called our ordinary nature, which is made up of unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy. The other is our true nature, the part of us that is pure, wise, and perfect. In Buddhism, it is called the Buddha nature. The only difference between us and the Buddha is that we have not awakened to our true nature.
The word Buddha is a title for the first awakened being in an era. In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha. Photo courtesy of edepot.com
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BASIC TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA
Symbolism in Buddhism: Buddhist visual art has produced an elaborate vocabulary of symbolic and iconic forms of expression. A great variety of Buddhist symbols are found in temples and in Buddhist art and literature. Among the most common figures are the lotus, the wheel, and the stupa. They can be seen in almost every Buddhist temple and in a sense these symbols serve as visual mantras. An exercise in meditation is to contemplate these images in order to realize their deepest meaning. Photo courtesy of www.sabaidesignsgallery.com
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Chapter 1 THE THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS
One day, the Buddha sat down in the shade of a tree and noticed how beautiful the countryside was. Flowers were blooming and trees were putting on bright new leaves, but among all this beauty, he saw much unhappiness. A farmer beat his ox in the field. A bird pecked at an earthworm, and then an eagle swooped down on the bird. Deeply troubled, he asked, "Why does the farmer beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?"
During his enlightenment, the Buddha found the answer to these questions. He discovered three great truths. He explained these truths in a simple way so that everyone could understand them.
1. Nothing is lost in the universe
The first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents; our children are born of us.
We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, as the rain that falls. We consist of that which is around us; we are the same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy ourselves. If we cheat another, we cheat ourselves. Understanding this truth, the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.
2. Everything Changes
The second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing on and on, ever-changing. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places, but later on snags and rocks crop up out of nowhere. As soon as we think we are safe, something unexpected happens.
Once dinosaurs, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth. They all died out, yet this was not the end of life. Other life forms like smaller mammals appeared, and eventually humans, too. Now we can even see the Earth from space and understand the changes that have taken place on this planet. Our ideas about life also
Meditation is a major aspect of the Buddhist tradition. In the Theravada tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration.
In Buddhism, Karma is represented by the “eternal knot.” Photo courtesy of zazzle.com
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Buddha teaches his lesson to Kisagotami. (Photo courtesy of chandawimala.blogspot.com)
change. People once believed that the world was flat, but now we know that it is round.
3. Law of Cause and Effect
The third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there are continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. This is the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science textbook. In this way, science and Buddhism are alike.
The law of cause and effect is known as karma. Nothing ever happens to us unless we deserve it. We receive exactly what we earn, whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now due to the things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, in the future good things will happen to us. If we do bad things, in the future bad things will happen to us. Every moment we create new karma by what we say, do, and think. If we understand this, we do not need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create a bright future. The Buddha said,
"The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit. Those who do good will reap good results. Those who do evil will reap evil results. If you carefully plant a good seed, you will joyfully gather good fruit." Dhammapada
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
Once there was a woman named Kisagotami, whose first-born son died. She was so stricken with grief that she roamed the streets carrying the dead body and asking for help to bring her son back
to life. A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha.
The Buddha told her, "Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and I will bring your child back to life." Joyfully Kisagotami started off to get them. Then the Buddha added, “But the seeds must come from a family that has not known death."
Kisagotami went from door to door in the whole village asking for the mustard seeds, but everyone said, "Oh, there have been many deaths here", "I lost my father", I lost my Photo courtesy of vajraparrot.blogspot.com
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sister". She could not find a single household that had not been visited by death. Finally Kisagotami returned to the Buddha and said, "There is death in every family. Everyone dies. Now I understand your teaching."
The Buddha said, "No one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed." Things are not always the way we want them to be, but we can learn to understand them. When we get sick, we go to a doctor and ask:
• What's wrong with me? • Why am I sick? • What will cure me? • What do I have to do get well?
The Buddha is like a good doctor. First a good doctor diagnoses the illness. Next he finds out what has caused it. Then he decides what the cure is. Finally he prescribes the medicine or gives the treatment that will make the patient well again. The Four Noble Truths 1. There is Suffering- Suffering is common to all. 2. Cause of Suffering -We are the cause of our suffering. 3. End of Suffering- Stop doing what causes suffering. 4. Path to end Suffering -Everyone can be enlightened.
1. Suffering- Everyone suffers from these things: Birth- When we are born, we cry. Sickness- When we are sick, we are miserable. Old age- When old, we will have ache and pains and find it hard to get around. Death- None of us wants to die. We feel deep sorrow when someone dies.
Other things we suffer from are: Being with those we dislike, Being apart from those we love, Not getting what we want, All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable.
The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. He said: "There is happiness in life, happiness in friendship, happiness of a family, happiness in a healthy body and mind, ...but when one loses them, there is suffering." Dhammapada
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Photo courtesy of Ed Sander
2. The cause of suffering The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering because of ignorance and greed. They are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind, so they can not be satisfied or enjoy life.
For example, once children have had a taste of candy, they want more. When they can't have it, they get upset. Even if children get all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something else. Although they get a stomachache from eating too much candy, they still want more. The things people want most cause them the most suffering. Of course, there are basic things that all people should have, like adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone deserves a good home, loving parents, and good friends. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy.
3. The end of suffering To end suffering, one must cut off greed and ignorance. This means changing one's views and living in a more natural and peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which all suffering is ended Nirvana. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace. The Buddha said, "The extinction of desire is Nirvana." This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha's teachings. It can be experienced in this very life.
4. The path to the end of suffering: The path to end suffering is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. It is also known as the Middle Way.
Chapter 3 THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
When the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park, he began the 'Turning of the Dharma Wheel'. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha's teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel, the only point which is fixed, Nirvana. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need to follow each step of the path.
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1. Right View. The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom and compassion.
2. Right Thought. We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.
3. Right Speech. By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
4. Right Conduct. No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.
5. Right Livelihood. This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy."
6. Right Effort. A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.
7. Right Mindfulness. This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
8. Right Concentration. Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.
Following the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden, but in Buddhism one cultivates one's wisdom. The mind is the ground and thoughts are seeds. Deeds are ways one cares for the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness.
FOLLOWING THE BUDDHA'S TEACHINGS
Chapter 1 THE WHEEL OF LIFE
Buddhists do not believe that death is the end of life. When one dies, one's consciousness leaves and enters one of the six paths of rebirth.
• Heavenly Beings • Humans • Asuras are beings who have many good things
in life, but still like to fight. They appear in the heavens or on earth as people or animals.
• Hungry ghosts are beings who suffer from constant hunger.
In Buddhism, reincarnation a is represented by the “wheel of life.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
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These are the six states on the wheel of life. At the top are the heavens, where everyone is happy. Below are the hells where the suffering is unbearable. Beings can rise or fall from one path to another. If one does good deeds, one will be born into the paths of gods, humans, or asuras. If one does evil deeds, one will be born into the paths of animals, hungry ghosts, or hell-beings. From one life to the next one can suddenly change from a human to an animal or from a ghost to a hell-being, according to the things one has done.
How to Escape the Turning Wheel
The wheel of life and death is kept turning by the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. By cutting off the three poisons, we can escape the wheel and become enlightened. There are four stages of enlightenment.
• Buddha- perfect in enlightenment.
• Bodhisattvas- enlighten themselves as well as others.
• Pratyekabuddhas- hermits who retreat from the world to enlighten themselves.
• Arhats- enlighten themselves.
Photo courtesy of Psalm Publishing
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DIFFERENT KINDS OF BUDDHISM
Chapter 1 TWO SCHOOLS OF BUDDHISM
In the centuries following the Buddha's lifetime, his followers faithfully preserved his teachings and spread them to many countries in Asia. Today, there are two main schools of Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada means 'the teaching of the Elders'. Theravada monks follow the practices that have been passed down by the senior monks from the Buddha's time, such as living in the forests and meditating. The goal in Theravada Buddhism is to become an Arhat, a person who is free of suffering. Theravada is practiced mainly in southern Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).
Mahayana stresses following the Buddha's example of going out into the world and doing good. Mahayana means 'Great Vehicle'. The goal in Mahayana Buddhism is to follow the Bodhisattva Path. A Bodhisattva is one who enlightens oneself as well as others. In Mahayana Buddhism, there are many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It mainly spread to northern Asian countries like China, Tibet, Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Recently, both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have been introduced into the West.
Chapter 2 VISITING A BUDDHIST TEMPLE
Our visit is to a Theravada Buddhist monastery in the forest in Thailand where only the monks live. We sit in the quietness of a small bamboo temple built on stilts, surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and rustling trees. A young monk who is our guide explains to us. "The monks live alone in huts called 'kutis'. They are built on stilts to keep the animals and insects out. There they practice sitting and walking meditation, which is very important for their spiritual life. In front of each hut is a path for walking meditation. The monks sweep them clean to keep from stepping on insects and killing them."
The guide continues, "Early in the morning and in the evening, the monks meet together for meditation and recitation. After the ceremonies called pujas, they study the Dharma. Before entering the temple they wash their feet with water carried up to the monastery from a stream below. It is traditional for the monks and nuns to live in the forest as part of their early training.
This map shows the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia. Photo courtesy of The Buddhist Society
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The older ones, however, are not required to do so. Some monks and nuns may live all their lives in the forest, while others live in the temples in towns and cities.
Someone asks, "Living in the jungle, aren't you afraid of tigers?"
The monk answers, "Sometimes, when the monks are walking in the jungle, they sense tigers following them. But since they hold the precept of no killing, they're not afraid and the tigers know they will not be harmed."
Mantras are placed inside prayer wheels, shown here. Photo courtesy of goddessoftheconfluence.blogspot.com
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Main Buddhist Festivals From Wordpress: Buddhism 17 February 2011
1) Buddhist New Year In some countries like Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Lao, the New Year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April.
2) Vesak This festival celebrates the Birthday of Buddha. In one day, the Buddhists
celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. This festival takes place on the first full moon of May.
3) Magha Puja Day Magha Puja Day takes places on the full moon day of the third lunar month (March). This holy day is to commemorate an important event in the life of the Buddha, the fourfold assembly.
4) Asalha Puja Day Asalha Puja means to honor Buddha on the full moon day of the 8th lunar month (approximately
July). It recalls and shows respect to the Buddha’s first teaching.
5) Uposatha The four holy days in each month. These holy days are during the new moons, full moons and quarter moons. On these days the Buddhists fast (they don’t eat at all).
6) Kathina Ceremony In this ceremony, new robes are offered to Buddhists monks.
7) Abhidhamma Day This day celebrates the event when the Buddha is said to have gone to the Heaven to teach his mother. It is held on the full moon of April.
Buddhists in Chang Mai celebrate the New Year. Photo courtesy of John and Tina Reid
A Burmese celebrates Buddha Day. Photo courtesy of National Geographic
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8) Songkran This Buddhist festival goes on for several days during the middle of April. People clean their houses and wash their clothes and enjoy sprinkling perfumed water on the monks. This festival is like a spring cleaning!
9) Loy Krathong This festival takes place on the full moon night of the Twelfth Lunar month. People bring bowls made of leaves, which contain flowers, candles and incense sticks. People float them in water and as they go, all bad luck is supposed to disappear.
10) The Ploughing Festival This festival takes place in May, when the moon is half-full, two white oxen pull a gold painted plough, followed by four girls dressed in white who throw rice seeds from baskets. This is to celebrate the Buddha’s first moment of enlightenment, which happened when Buddha was seven years old, when he had gone with his father to watch the ploughing.
The Ploughing Festival. Photo courtesy of MLS Asia Pacific
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Study Questions: Buddhism and its Influence on Aung San Suu Kyi
1. What are the main teachings of Buddhism?
2. The Noble Eightfold Path is often compared to cultivating a garden. In Buddhism, the follower cultivates their wisdom, in order to attain real happiness. How does this metaphor develop one’s understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path?
3. Draw parallels between the teachings of Buddhism and the effects these teachings have had on Aung San Suu Kyi’s perspective on life and her work.
4. How do you think Buddhists might view the roles and responsiblities of government and citizens?
5. Are there any aspects of Buddhism that are similar to your own religion? If yes, how so? Are there differences from your own beliefs? If so, compare them.
6. What role do Buddhist festivals and holidays play in the cultural institutions of Burma?
7. One of the most important teachings of the Buddha is to practice non-violence. Elaborate how this teaching affects Aung San Suu Kyi’s work to promote democracy in Burma.
8. What are some other places worldwide where non-violence has been a successful political force? Why do you think it was effective?
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V. Aung San Suu Kyi Political and Humanitarian Work
A. Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Release of all Burma's Political Prisoners B. Opposition Leader Suu Kyi Calls for Protection of Ethnics in Myanmar C. Aung San Suu Kyi Calls For More Aid to Ethnic Areas D. Aung San Suu Kyi and the Art of Compromise E. An interview with Burma’s Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi After House Arrest F. The 2011 Time 100 G. Burmese Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Receive United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Elie Wiesel Award at National Tribute Dinner H. A List of Literary Works by Aung San Suu Kyi I. Excerpts From Her Books J. Study Questions
“Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy. I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was struggling against military rule in Myanmar for two decades, won the parliamentary elections and is now one of the 44 National League for Democracy lawmakers. Photo courtesy of www.idiva.com
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Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Release of All Burma's Political Prisoners
From The Guardian UK Associated Press in Rangoon 3 July 2012 Opposition leaders demand follows reports that President Thein Sein has granted amnesty to 46 prisoners.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, back from her triumphant tour of Europe, has repeated calls for the government to release hundreds of political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi's comments came in response to reports that President Thein Sein has granted amnesty to 46 prisoners who were expected to be freed from prisons later on Tuesday.
More than 20 of those receiving an amnesty are prisoners of conscience, said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent former political prisoner. Among them are former student activist Aye Aung, who was serving a 59-year sentence for distributing pamphlets and taking part in a protest during a 1998 pro-democracy uprising.
"We are very happy that our fellow political prisoners are being released," Ko Ko Gyi said. "However, we will continue to work for the release of all political prisoners."
Human Rights Watch says at least 659 political prisoners have been released over the past year as part of Burma's startling series of reforms.
Estimates by human rights groups of the number of political prisoners who remain in government custody range from about 200 to 600. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposition party puts the number at 330.
"We will call for the release of all 330 political prisoners," Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's most famous former political prisoner, said at a news conference. It was her first public appearance since returning from her two-week tour of Europe, her first overseas journey in 24 years.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported that 37 men and nine women were being freed.
It said the decision had been made on humanitarian grounds "with a view to ensuring the stability of the state and making eternal peace (and) national reconciliation".
A prisoner celebrates after being released in Burma. Photo courtesy of BBC
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Opposition Leader Suu Kyi Calls for Protection of Ethnics in Myanmar
From The Wall Street Journal Asia By Patrick Barta 25 July 2012 Aung San Suu Kyi called for new laws to protect Myanmar's fractious ethnic minority groups in her first speech to Parliament, highlighting one of the most challenging issues for the country as it opens up to the outside world.
Investors and diplomats have been waiting to see what Ms. Suu Kyi would do now that she is serving in office as leader of Myanmar's opposition, after spending much of the past two decades under a house arrest imposed by the country's former military junta. Ms. Suu Kyi was released in late 2010 and elected to Parliament in April, after Myanmar's military regime handed power to a nominally civilian government. The new leadership has unveiled a series economic and social reforms resulting in a rollback of Western economic sanctions.
Some investors feared Ms. Suu Kyi's push to clean up the country's business environment would make it harder for foreigners to do business there. She frustrated some Western leaders—and pleased human-rights advocates—when she suggested in June that foreigners should refrain from doing business with Myanmar's state oil-and-gas firm until it took steps to improve its transparency. During the years of Myanmar's military regime, she was a staunch backer of sanctions that barred Western companies from doing business there.
But Ms. Suu Kyi for the most part has signaled support for Western investment in recent months, and she has offered cautious backing for a move by the Obama administration this month to suspend some of the U.S.'s most restrictive sanctions.
By focusing on the country's ethnic divisions in her first parliamentary address, Ms. Suu Kyi is helping steer attention toward an issue that continues to bedevil the country's new reformist government—and that has led to rare criticism of Ms. Suu Kyi. Myanmar has long suffered from
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spoke in Parliament on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
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intense ethnic divides that at times have threatened to pull the country apart, with more than a half-dozen ethnic groups claiming unfair treatment by the country's dominant Burman ethnic group.
At least one group, the Kachin, continues to wage a low-level war against the government, while violence in western Myanmar last month between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas left at least 78 people dead and led to a government crackdown in the region. The Rohingya conflict, in particular, has unnerved investors and upset rights advocates
who fear the violence could escalate, and push Myanmar's military to reassert some of the control it gave up over the past year.
Human-rights groups, meanwhile, have criticized Ms. Suu Kyi for failing to speak out more in favor of the Rohingyas, who most people in Myanmar consider illegal settlers from Bangladesh.
Rising from her seat at the back of Myanmar's Parliament, Ms. Suu Kyi called for an end to discrimination against ethnic minorities as part of the "emergence of a genuine democratic country," the Associated Press reported Wednesday. She urged the government to pass "necessary laws or amend laws to protect the rights of ethnic nationalities," and said protecting minority rights required more than just maintaining ethnic languages and cultures.
"The high poverty rates in ethnic states clearly indicate that development in ethnic regions is not satisfactory and ethnic conflicts in these regions have not ceased," she said. She didn't mention the recent violence in the Rohingya area.
Fighting between ethnic groups in Kachin continues to this day. Photo courtesy of DVB
The Rohingya people are fleeing the apartheid in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Phuket Wan Tourism
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The challenge for Ms. Suu Kyi—and for the government overall—is that the country's ethnic divisions defy easy solutions, even as popular expectations regarding Ms. Suu Kyi's power to bring about change run high. The administration of President Thein Sein has reached cease-fires with some restive minority groups, but peace with the Kachin has remained elusive, and other groups have at times threatened to restart conflicts. Such an effort could entail more-radical change than the country's government is willing to accept, some analysts believe. Leaders have focused recently on trying to steer more economic development into ethnic areas, but many investors remain wary of sinking money into regions where conflicts could flare up.
Many of the groups occupy areas crucial for the country's economic plans because they are home to large portions of Myanmar's rich natural resources, including natural gas and mined commodities.
"Expectations of the people are very, very high. I'm not sure anybody can meet such high expectations," said Aung Thura, chief executive of Thura Swiss Ltd., a Myanmar research outfit, about Ms. Suu Kyi.
Some supporters of Ms. Suu Kyi have called for her to revive talk of a so-called Panglong agreement that would grant ethnic groups more extensive power-sharing in Myanmar's political system, or even the right to secede. The name comes from a previous agreement engineered by her father, independence hero Gen. Aung San, in the 1940s that sought to give more autonomy to ethnic groups. The deal became moot after Myanmar's military took over in a 1962 coup.
In Burma, poverty is widespread. Photo courtesy of Burma Geography Project
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Aung San Suu Kyi Calls For More Aid to Ethnic Areas
From Karen News 17 May 2012
Naw Zipporah Sein, the Karen National Union’s general secretary welcomed a statement from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi calling for more development in ethnic areas.
Noble Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, asked for foreign investors and international development aid providers to consider working not only in central Burma, but also in ethnic rural areas.
Aung San Suu Kyi was speaking to reporters outside her house after meeting with the Foreign Minister of Poland.
The KNU’s Zipporah Sein agreed with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“At the moment, the majority of international aid is being channeled to inside Burma. It is also important that if part of this aid can also reach ethnic areas that are in desperate need.”
M’s Sein said that hundreds of thousands of displaced people in ethnic states are at risk.
“The thousands of internally displaced people in Karen and other ethnic States still need humanitarian assistance. We want humanitarian aid channeled for work inside Burma, but we also want to see the continued support for cross border assistance to populations in need.”
M’s Sein acknowledged that if international aid is only directed through to populations inside Burma, it will leave many displaced people in difficulties.
“It is important to keep delivering humanitarian assistance effectively to those who are in
Photo courtesy of Stephen Shaver/AFP/Getty Images
Karen refugees from Burma arrive at a refugee camp. Photo courtesy of LCFS
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desperate need because despite the optimism of the current situation, there hasn’t been much change on the ground. All humanitarian aid shouldn’t go through central Burma. We welcome Daw Suu’s statement.”
Suu Kyi pointed out to reporters that even though there are many civilians in central Burma living in poverty, there are many more ethnic nationalities that are living in more dire poverty and in need of assistance.
The Polish Foreign Minister also met with President U Thein Sein and reached a bilateral agreement, which Poland will offer a scholarship program for Burmese citizens.
Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, the head of the National League for Democracy in Karen State said that there are many areas of development needed in Karen State.
“Since Karen State hasn’t been a peaceful state, it is now similar to a mound of ashes after a fire. More aid is needed. It will be good to have more roads for better transportation, have more job opportunities and have development projects that don’t destroy our environment.”
In Burma, there are eleven major ethnic armed resistance groups which have been waging war against different times of the Burmese military government. According to figures from Non-Governmental Organizations, there are over 400,000 internally displaced people in Burma.
An ethnic Arakanese man holds homemade weapons as he walks in front of burning houses during fighting between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, Burma. Photo courtesy of Reuters
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This flag is the symbol of the democracy movement in Burma. The Fighting Peacock is associated with decades-long democratic struggle against military dictatorship in the country. Photo courtesy of National League for Democracy
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Ethnic-Minority Problem The idea of Myanmar
From The Economist 7 July 2012
Few outside her homeland would dream these days of criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader. On her tour of Europe last month, she was swaddled in praise verging on adulation. Her dignity, courage, intelligence and good humor confirmed her many longtime admirers in their good opinion and won her new ones. But at home she is now a politician, not a political prisoner. Flak comes with the territory. Myanmar’s election commission has chided her for not “respecting the constitution”, by repeatedly calling the country not “Myanmar” but “Burma”. Perhaps more worrying for her is that groups representing
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities are voicing doubts about her.
A particular problem she faced in Europe was how to react to the ugly racial violence in early June in the western state of Rakhine, directed at the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority. Dozens of
people are thought to have died, and 90,000 been displaced. The much-persecuted Rohingyas are viewed as illegal immigrants by the majority of Burmans, who are mostly Buddhist, and indeed by other minorities, too. Many would have been dismayed had Miss Suu Kyi, when asked if the Rohingyas were Burmese, replied other than she did: “I do not know.” It was an awkward dilemma that some local analysts are convinced was deliberately created by Myanmar’s army. If the generals did have a hand in fomenting the violence they would have had several aims: to embarrass Miss Suu Kyi with either—or both—her domestic and foreign audiences; to reassert their own importance, which was demonstrated when a state of emergency was declared in the state; and to deflect attention from campaigns elsewhere, notably against ethnic-Kachin rebels.
Ethnic conflict is a serious problem in Burma. Photo courtesy of foreignpolicy.com
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The Rohingyas are a special, appalling, case. In Europe Miss Suu Kyi, fielding questions by stressing the importance of the rule of law, managed to avoid offence. But her relations with other, more accepted, ethnic groups are also delicate. Ever since Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948, the country, which has more than 100 recognized minorities, has faced secessionist rebellions on its periphery from a score of mostly ethnically based insurgencies. These people are much more than a few recalcitrant hill-tribes. Huge tracts of the country, holding perhaps one-third of its population, are “minority” areas. Many have a long history of bitter war with the army and some are heavily involved in producing narcotics.
Thant Myint-u, a historian of Burma, has written of the tendency to view Myanmar as “a failed Eastern European-style revolution…when a more apt comparison is with similarly war-torn societies like Cambodia or Afghanistan.” When asked about this last year, Miss Suu Kyi dismissed the comparison, saying Myanmar is not that bad. But part of the self-image of the junta in power until last year was as the guarantor of the country’s integrity. The junta saw the army as the only thing that was saving Myanmar from the centrifugal forces of the insurgencies.
It reached ceasefires with most of the insurgents. But there were no peace agreements and the rebels remained armed and, mostly, in tactical political alliance with Miss Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), in opposition
to the army’s rule. The junta has now made way for a civilian government, albeit one dominated by former soldiers, and this April the NLD rejoined mainstream politics. Miss Suu Kyi and 42 of her colleagues now have seats in parliament. Among the ethnic groups, old suspicions linger that the NLD is a party of the Burmans with no real commitment to the interests of the minorities.
One Kachin website objected to Miss Suu Kyi’s response when asked in London about her reluctance to condemn the army’s offensive against the Kachin, whose unresolved rebellion is, at present, the most serious of many. A 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin broke down in June last year. Fighting has displaced an estimated 75,000 people, including up to 10,000 across the Chinese border. There have also been clashes with another group, the Shan State Army (South). Miss Suu Kyi suggested that resolving strife was not about condemnation, but about “finding out the root, the cause of the conflict.” For the writer, this was obvious: “the systematic exploitation and dehumanization by successive Burmese governments”.
Taknaf, Bangladesh — Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar intercepted by border authorities trying to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh sit on a boat before being sent back to Myanmar. Bangladesh has turned back more than 1,500 refugees fleeing religious violence in recent days, officials said. Fighting between majority Rakhine Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is posing a serious challenge for the national government. Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times
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The new government has managed to reach peace agreements with a number of rebel groups, such as the Karen, the Chin and the Mon. And informal peace talks have begun with the Kachin. But they and other groups remain deeply suspicious of the government’s sincerity—and of its ability to tell the army what to do. At times over the past year, it has appeared to ignore Mr. Thein Sein’s instructions to stop offensive action against the Kachin.
As for the NLD, Miss Suu Kyi and other party spokesmen have for years defined its ethnic policy by calling for a “new Panglong agreement”. This refers to a document signed in 1947 by Miss Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, with Shan, Kachin and Chin representatives, promising “full autonomy” in the frontier areas. Mr. Thein Sein also says the peace deals he pursues are based on the “spirit of the Panglong Agreement”.
The Panglong resurgence
So a reformist government and its main opposition party—which judging from by-elections in April enjoys huge popular support—are in accord. Myanmar needs a comprehensive peace settlement with its minorities under which they will enjoy great autonomy. Prospects for lasting peace should look better than ever.
Panglong, however, was, as that Kachin website notes, “failed”. The legacy of the long conflicts is so bitter, the suspicions of the army so deep, and the legal and illegal commercial interests so numerous, that settlements remain elusive. The risk for Miss Suu Kyi and the NLD is that, as they entrench themselves in politics, they become not the vehicle of reconciliation, but part of the enemy that ethnic minorities have spent a lifetime fighting.
Photo courtesy of Asian News
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Aung San Suu Kyi and the Art of Compromise From The Washington Post By Fred Hiatt 5 July 2012
WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts last week did something that, in polarized Washington, may turn out to be more important than saving Obamacare.
He showed that compromise can be consistent with principle. More than that: He showed that compromise, for someone who respects and knows how to use the democratic process, can be the best way to advance principle.
It would have been unhealthy for the country if five Republican-appointed justices had nullified the Democratic-approved health care law. Honoring what he called "a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the Nation's elected leaders," Roberts led the court away from that fate.
But in honoring the principle of judicial deference, Roberts didn't
abandon his cherished principle of federal restraint. On the contrary, he managed to shape a decision that in coming years may severely restrict federal authority.
Whether or not you share his enthusiasm for such restriction, there is a lesson here that has been lost on many Washington politicians, and it's not just that compromise is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. It's that compromise can be a practical means to a principled goal.
A similar lesson is unfolding halfway around the world in Myanmar, where democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi recently sprung from house arrest into the whirl of day-to-day politics.
Despite my admiration for Roberts' behavior last week, I'm not elevating him to her plane. In modern history it's hard to find anyone who can match her combination of steely determination and good-humored lack of bitterness. Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel are two who would make that very short list.
But she, too, is in the process of marrying conviction to practicality. Now 67, Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burma's independence hero, a general who was assassinated when she was 2. She
Photo courtesy of AFP
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spent much of her life abroad but returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her dying mother and was swept up in a movement for democracy.
She electrified crowds with her modest eloquence and confounded soldiers by walking, alone and unarmed, directly toward their guns. Her National League for Democracy Party won an election in 1990 that the ruling generals effectively annulled. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but did not travel to Oslo to accept it because she feared the generals would not let her back into her country. She spent most of the next two decades locked up, separated from her two sons, and apart from her husband when he grew ill and died.
Now she has been allowed to run for Parliament (she won, easily) and travel abroad. At every step she has been criticized by some for sticking to principle too stubbornly and by others for being too willing to compromise with the generals and former generals who still call the shots.
Her supposed intransigence always has infuriated those more eager to do business with Myanmar than promote its democracy. Last week, in response to her opposition to U.S. firms dealing with Myanmar's corrupt state-owned energy company, outgoing Virginia Sen. James Webb peevishly asked whether "an official from any foreign government should be telling us what sectors that we should invest in and not invest in."
But at the same time she has alarmed some of her supporters by embracing this chance at reform, even though there's no guarantee that it will bear fruit. She speaks warmly of President Thein Sein, takes her seat in a parliament the regime still controls and urges foreigners to invest, as long they do so in a "democracy-friendly and human-rights friendly" way.
"I strive to be as practical as my father was," she told the British Parliament, recalling that when a British general accused him of switching from the Japanese to the British side during World War II because the British were winning, he replied, "It wouldn't be much good coming to you if you weren't, would it?"
She deflects canonization and any romanticizing of what she's been through. Finally accepting her prize in Oslo last month, she began one sentence this way: "Of the sweets of adversity — and let me say that these are not numerous ..."
But she went on to note that the most precious of those "sweets" was "the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness.
Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others."
It's too much to expect us normal folks to match Suu Kyi's serene ability to find humanity in those who have treated her most vilely. But tea party Republicans and MoveOn Democrats might learn, if not from her then from the chief justice, that a studied embrace of compromise can be a means to advance principle, not betray it.
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An Interview with Burma’s Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi After House Arrest
From The Washington Post By Lally Weymouth 20 January 2012
Aung San Suu Kyi sat in the living room of the home where she lived under house arrest for so many years and talked about the future. She is now a free citizen, meeting with high-level foreign delegations; she’s a political star in her country and possibly a future president. In an interview with Washington Post senior associate editor Lally Weymouth on Wednesday — the same day Suu Kyi registered as a candidate for Burma’s parliamentary elections — she talked about her country’s president, U.S. economic sanctions and her political plans.
In the United States, people are asking if President Thein Sein’s reform process is real. Do you think the reforms are real? And how did your meeting with the president go?
My meeting with the president went well, and I believe he sincerely wants reform. But he is not the only one in government. Our present constitution gives the military far too much power. Although the president is the head of state, he is not necessarily the highest power in the land. The commander in chief can take over all powers of government at any time he feels it to be necessary. That must be very
difficult if you are in the position in which our president is. I don’t know how much support he has within the army. He himself is an army man, so I assume there must be considerable support for him in military circles. But that is just an assumption.
I think the president is genuine about reform. I think there are those who support him in the government. Whether all people support him, I can’t answer.
Do you worry that there could be a reversal of this reform process?
I don’t worry overmuch, but I am aware that there is a possibility of reversal. I think we have to work very hard to diminish this possibility. I do appreciate what the United States is doing to encourage this process. I think we here inside Burma have to do the major part of the work.
Should the United States lift sanctions and engage?
Engage and lift sanctions when they think the time is right. The U.S. has laid out very clearly what the conditions are for the removal of sanctions. If this government wants sanctions to be removed, they will have to try and meet those conditions.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
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One condition was the prisoner releases, and the president did release quite a few recently.
Yes, but not all of them yet. All the major political prisoners have been released.
Do you feel you could you play a role in bringing about peace and reconciliation between the ethnic groups and the government?
I could play a role only if both sides are willing to have me play a role. I can’t just go in because one side has asked me to take part. The ethnics have indicated they want me to be part of it.
I asked the president if he would consider giving you a cabinet post. He said it was up to parliament.
Quite right. Even if we win all the seats we are contesting, that will be only 48 out of 600 seats. The reason we want to get into parliament is not because we expect to do all our work in parliament. We want to extend our activities into the parliament.
Going back to the U.S. demands — what other conditions must be met?
There should be an end to all hostilities in the ethnic areas. There has been a cease-fire with the KNU [Karen National Union] but not yet with the KIA [Kachin Independence Army]. That is a big problem for the country.
Senior U.S. officials look to you for guidance in regard to lifting the sanctions.
What they have in me is someone to give an honest assessment of the situation. The situation in the Kachin [state] is a major problem. If we are to have a genuinely peaceful nation, we will have to resolve these problems politically, not militarily.
The government reportedly has been brutal in the ethnic areas.
Yes, there have been human rights violations, and that’s why it’s necessary to allow third-party access to those areas to find out what’s really happening.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has said that Burma is developing a nuclear weapon with the help of North Korea.
I don’t know that they are developing a nuclear weapon. They certainly have reestablished diplomatic relations with North Korea. That cannot be denied.
Is it true they picked Naypyidaw as the new capital because of an astrologer?
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
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I understand that the previous government was guided by astrologers.
Do you think Thein Sein is sort of a Gorbachev?
No, because Gorbachev came into power gradually through the ranks, and he had his grip on power quite firmly before he started going towards reform. Thein Sein is in a rather different situation. I think very few people expected him to become head of state. He was not the highest-ranking member in the military government under Gen. [Than] Shwe.
You referred to the fact that the army could overthrow this president. What is his relationship with the army?
He is respected in the army, that we know. He is one of the few members of the previous regime who is considered by all to be clean. Not only he, but his family as well, and that is unusual.
This is the house you lived in when you were under house arrest. How many years did that go on?
All together, 15 years.
How did you keep going?
I had enough to do to keep this house from toppling down. I could listen to the radio, and I had access to books from time to time. Not all the time.
Your family was in England?
Yes, in some ways that was good because I didn’t have to worry about them. At least I knew that they were safe. The first six years I was kept totally alone. The last six years I had two people staying in the house. The first six years really trained me very well.
Do you want to be president one day?
I don’t want to be president, but I want to be free to decide whether or not I want to be president of this country.
If you win a majority of the parliamentary seats in 2015, as you did in 1990, do you think they would let you assume power?
What we want is to make sure that by 2015, this should not be a question at all. By 2015, we should be certain that whichever party wins the majority in parliament should decide how the
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
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government is going to be organized. We have said quite clearly that one of the aims of the NLD [National League for Democracy] is the necessary amendments to the constitution. We have reregistered our party. I went to register myself as a candidate this morning. We have started campaigning around the country. People have been very enthusiastic. It is very encouraging — all these years, and they are still standing solidly behind us.
What about a free press?
There is no real freedom of the press yet. When I was released last year, I think we didn’t have half the number of journalists and publications that we have now. Within the last year, the number of publications have proliferated.
But they have to submit their stories to a censor.
Yes. The censorship laws have been relaxed considerably. When I was released, I couldn’t publish anything under my name.
Do you have ideas as to how to improve the living standards of the people of this country?
We need to empower the people. One way to empower them is to make them stronger economically. That’s where we would like our friends to help: foreign aid in the right way; development aid that is not frittered away to those who are administering the funds. Do you favor privatizing the economy? Yes, but we need sound laws with regard to the economy. We need sound banking and sound investment laws. Only a small minority of our people have anything to do with banks.
What is your view of the Arab Spring? Do you think the government in Naypyidaw was influenced by it?
The situation in the Middle East is considerably different. I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.
I understand that when you met with President Thein Sein last summer, he had your father’s picture prominently displayed.
When the military regime first took over, my father’s face was on the currency. It was gradually removed and replaced by the symbol of the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party]. All the photos of my father were taken down from schools and government offices. You were
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
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not allowed to put photos of my father in journals or magazines. The meeting without the picture would have meant less.
Were you surprised when you walked in?
I was, yes. I had not expected it. My father’s picture was in the center.
Did you and the president decide you could work together?
I felt I could work with him, and I hope he felt he could work with me.
Did Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton invite you to Washington when she was here in December?
Yes, I would love to go to Washington as soon as possible. Has it changed much in the last 40 years?
Recently you have had many foreign visitors. Hasn’t your life changed drastically in the past year?
It doesn’t seem all that different, except much busier. I don’t have enough time to read.
Do you know how to use a computer?
I do. I learned to work on a computer years before I was placed under house arrest. Fortunately I had two laptops when I was under house arrest — one an Apple and one a different operating system. I was very proud of that because I know how to use both systems. I had no contact with the outside world. But I learned how to use different programs — I would make little invitation cards for myself just for fun. Just to learn how to use it.
What do you worry about the most?
I worry that even those who want to reform are not quite sure how to go about it. There is so much to be done — this is why I am keen on an assessment by the World Bank as a first step towards finding out what we need to do.
Some say the regime undertook the recent reforms because they believe that China is gaining too much influence here and they want the United States and the international community as a counterbalance. What is your view?
It’s not necessarily connected with our relations with China. A lot of officers in the Burmese army have always wanted to have good relations with the U.S. Previously we have had good
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relations with the U.S., and some of the generals were trained in the U.S. The minister of labor had a stint at Fort Benning.
I heard he is the president’s liaison to you. Is that so?
That is right. He has been the liaison between me and the government for several years — since 2007. A few times a year, we had a meeting at a government guest house.
What did you think of him?
He is intelligent, which is a plus. He has goodwill. He wants the right kind of changes. Before 2004, they had a designated liaison officer. But he was removed. My first liaison officer was a major, and he rose through the ranks. At the end he was a brigadier. I knew some of the army quite well. I was the responsibility of the military intelligence.
You have some familiarity with army thinking?
Of course. And you must not forget that I come from an army family.
Right now, you hope for what?
I hope to win all the seats in the elections, which are very few. They aren’t giving it to us. They [the ruling USDP party] are going to contest this election themselves.
Did President Obama ask your opinion about sending Clinton to Burma?
He asked if I thought it was a good idea, and I said yes.
And you got along? Yes, she is very nice and very intelligent. I like intelligent people.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.
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The 2011 Time 100 From Time Magazine By Wang Dan 21 April 2011
Meet the most influential people in the world. They are artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100
Aung San Suu Kyi Freedom Fighter
As the leader of Burma's democracy movement and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, is an Asian hero and global inspiration. When I was pushing for democratic reforms in China during the 1989 Tiananmen movement, Suu Kyi's commitment to nonviolent resistance, exemplified just a year before during Burma's democracy protests, was fresh in my memory. Last November she was released from her latest stint of more than seven years under house arrest.
In March her banned party, the National League for Democracy, called again for talks with Burma's rulers. Even after spending most of the past two decades in detention, Suu Kyi is determined to return to the front lines of the battle for democracy.
Kyi on the cover of Time magazine, Jan. 10th, 2011. Photo courtesy of Time magazine
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A List of Literary Works by Aung San Suu Kyi From Good Read Inc.
Freedom from Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi, Michael Aris (Editor, Introduction), Václav Havel (Foreword to the First Edition), Desmond Tutu (Foreword to the Second Edition) Published 2010
Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1995
The Voice of Hope by Aung San Suu Kyi, Alan Clements Published 1997
In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Conversations with Spiritual Social Activists by Catherine Ingram, Aung San Suu Kyi (Foreword by), Arun Gandhi (Foreword by), Michael N. Nagler (Afterword) Published 1990
Aung San of Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1995
Aung San / Leaders Of Asia Series by Aung San Suu Kyi 2 editions Published 1990
Let's Visit Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1985
Nepal (Let's Visit Series) by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1985
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Let's Visit Bhutan by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1986
Burma and India: Some aspects of intellectual life under colonialism by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1990
Une Révolution Des Consciences: Discours D'aung San Suu Kyi, 9 Juillet 1990. Suivi De Appeler Le Peuple À La Lutte Ouverte: Discours De Léon Trotsky Prononcé Lors De Son Procès, 4 Octobre 1906 by Aung San Suu Kyi, Léon Trotsky (Contributor) Published 2010
Libera dalla paura. Aung San Suu Kyi by Aung San Suu Kyi Published 1991
Aun San Su Chi Enzetsushu by Aung San Suu Kyi, 伊野 憲治 (翻訳) Published 1996
Biruma Kara No Tegami by Aung San Suu Kyi, 土佐 桂子 (翻訳), 永井 浩 (翻訳) Published 1996
“It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, or corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
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Excerpts From Her Books Freedom from Fear (1991)
Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (July 1991)
• In an age when immense technological advances have created lethal weapons which could be, and are, used by the powerful and the unprincipled to dominate the weak and the helpless, there is a compelling need for a closer relationship between politics and ethics at both the national and international levels. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that 'every individual and every organ of society' should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. But as long as there are governments whose authority is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of the people, and interest groups, which place short-term profits above long-term peace and prosperity, concerted international action to protect and promote human rights will remain at best a partially realized struggle.
• Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.
Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours (1997)
"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours" in the International Herald Tribune (4 February 1997)
• We have faith in the power to change what needs to be changed but we are under no illusion that the transition from dictatorship to liberal democracy will be easy, or that democratic government will mean the end of all our problems. We know that our greatest challenges lie ahead of us and that our struggle to establish a stable, democratic society will continue beyond our own life span. But we know that we are not alone. The cause of liberty and justice finds sympathetic responses around the world. Thinking and feeling people everywhere, regardless of color or creed, understand the deeply rooted human need for a meaningful existence that goes beyond the mere gratification of material desires. Those fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to full political rights can reach out to help their less fortunate brethren in other areas of our troubled planet.
• Part of our struggle is to make the international community understand that we are a poor country not because there is an insufficiency of resources and investment, but because we are deprived of the basic institutions and practices that make for good government.
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Study Questions: Aung San Suu Kyi Political and Humanitarian Work
1. What steps has Aung San Suu Kyi taken or suggested to help reconcile Burma’s many ethnic groups? What will her challenges be? 2. How has the opening of U.S. diplomatic relations with Burma had an impact on Aung San Suu Kyi’s ability to bring about change? Cite specific policies. 3. What is the significance of Aung San Suu Kyi’s election to Parliament, and how might this new platform change her work for democracy in Burma? 4. How has Aung San Suu Kyi learned to compromise with the current Burmese regime?
5. Nobel Laureate for Peace Elie Wiesel has spoken of Aung San Suu Kyi’s “moral courage in the face of dictatorship.” What is moral courage? Do you believe moral courage is an innate trait, or a learned skill? Why?
6. What insights into Aung San Suu Kyi’s thoughts did you gain after reading the excerpts from her book?
7. What might the role of non-governmental organizations be in a democratizing Burma? List specifics.
8. What do you think American students could do to support the democracy movement in Burma? How could they support U.S. involvement?
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VI. Transitioning to Democracy
A. Strenghening Civil Society an Important Step Towards Democracy B. Burma’s Quiet Reformers C. What Will Burma's Economic Future Look Like? D. More Milestones in Burma E. Burma Elections: Suu Kyi Voters on Their Future Hopes F. What Now For Burma After Election Landslide? G. EU Agrees to Suspend Most Burma Sanctions H. Barack Obama Appoints Derek Mitchell as First US Ambassador to Burma I. Study Questions
“Those of us who decided to work for democracy in Burma made our choice in the conviction that the danger of standing up for basic human rights in a repressive society was preferable to the safety of a quiescent life in servitude.”
– Aung San Suu Kyi
Photo courtesy of Duke University
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Strengthening Civil Society an Important Step Towards Democracy
From The Myanmar Times By Nan Tin Htwe 31 January 2011 – 6 February 2011
Cyclone Nargis was a turning point for Myanmar’s nascent civil society movement, and international experts say the foundations are in place for further growth.
Civil society is generally defined as a volunteer movement comprising organizations and institutions that reside between the state and the market, and its development is often considered an important part of “nation-building”.
The movement is particularly important in countries like Myanmar that are transitioning to democracy, yet international assistance to civil society groups is still relatively low, sources said.
Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Ahad, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative in Myanmar, said there was great potential to expand civil society in Myanmar because of the country’s “ingrained voluntary spirit”, which was particularly evident following Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.
“People did not wait for the government to step in and clean up the mess. They all cooperated and took action immediately to help each other,” said Mr. Mohamed, who has been working at UNFPA for 17 years.
He said monastic schools were another example of civil society stepping in to “complement” state programs.
“This deeply ingrained, particular characteristic of Myanmar should be utilized to strengthen the role of civil society groups,” he said.
“Civil society plays an important role – in partnership with various development and humanitarian actors, especially the government, UN and INGOs – in addressing people’s needs and improving their quality of life.
“They do not need to tell people what they should do but rather facilitate a process where people can decide for themselves. They should work with the people, not work for them.”
A comedian from a volunteer civil society group entertains children at a monastery in Than Lyin Township. Photo courtesy of Christopher Davy
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However, civil society groups face many challenges, such as a lack of human resources that hampers project coordination.
Organizations that are not formally registered face additional constraints, said Dr Sun Gang, head of UNAIDS in Myanmar.
“Without registration, they cannot get a proper bank account, for example. They then depend on other organizations that have a bank account or channel to accept funds in order to do their projects,” he said.
Lack of experience and professionalism in dealing with donors is another issue.
“As an organization, they need to do certain things, like defining their goals, developing their plan of action, requesting funds in the right format, following donor rules and monitoring their progress to ensure resources are being used properly,” he said. “These are all challenges for civil society groups.”
Dr Sun Gang said such groups also needed to build trust with the government to be able to work effectively.
“Accordingly, the government should cooperate, not control them,” he said. “In any country the government cannot help the people on its own. Civil society organizations fill the gaps with their enthusiasm and knowledge, especially for development and humanitarian work.”
Civil society groups also have some advantages over international non-government organizations, Dr Sun Gang said, as they can “respond quicker and get closer to beneficiaries” in an emergency.
Dr Phone Win, director of Mingalar Myanmar, said Cyclone Nargis had helped improve the professionalism of local relief organizations and this was evident following Cyclone Giri, which hit Rakhine State in October.
“Nargis helped build our capacity,” he said. “After the cyclone, we were working but it was too chaotic. We couldn’t manage our accounts properly. The staff delivered the goods but did not take people’s details correctly.
“We learned a lot from this and are now much better organized. We were ready two days before Giri hit.”
Civil society groups can also be a more efficient way of distributing aid. As the head of one group in Yangon said, “We don’t waste funds holding ceremonies at hotels, publishing expensive reports and paying big salaries. Our funds go directly to helping needy people.”
While many groups are self-funded, larger organizations rely on international NGOs for their funding.
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“At the moment most civil society groups receive funding from INGOs, which are called lead agencies. The groups should try to get funds from donors directly but most organizations have no idea how to ... there’s still a lack of capacity,” Dr Phone Win said. “We need more funds to help improve Myanmar’s civil society.”
Dr Phone Win said donors should look to Bangladesh, where each INGO is required to work together with a local organization, as an example of what could work in Myanmar.
“This would improve and strengthen civil society,” he said. “Foreign donors need to put more trust in local civil society groups and provide more assistance. At the moment, their top priority is INGOs. They should understand that local NGOs are in a position to take action in a way that INGOs cannot.”
The growing importance of civil society groups is being recognized both internationally and locally, despite an apparent reticence on the part of donors to provide funding to expand their capacity and programs.
While they play an important role in democracy, most civil society groups are apolitical.
“We are not political parties, not trying to have power or rule the country. We are simply providing social services and doing social works,” said the head of one well-known group based in Yangon that has 77 staff and more than 300 members. “We believe it’s the way to a peaceful and developed country … The government needs to support any organization that stands for the people. If the government is more cooperative and understanding, we can carry out our work more effectively.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with representatives of civil society groups in Rangoon, Burma, on December 2, 2011. Photo courtesy of the State Department/ Public Domain
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Burma’s Quiet Reformers From Inside Story Correspondent in Rangoon 13 June 2011
An independent and increasingly vibrant civil society movement is developing in Burma.
I’m almost at the top of a flight of dingy steps in a typical apartment building in Rangoon’s Tarmwe township. Strewn outside the door of the Bayda Institute are about forty pairs of well-worn sandals or “slippers” as they are known here in Burma. Inside the small room about the same number of adults sits patiently, occasionally breaking into applause as a young man or woman steps forward to accept a certificate. The presenter calls out the names of the graduates and, invariably, their organizations: the Human Action Group, the Mingalar Foundation, the Kachin Women’s Action Group and others.
“To a society of conscience” is the institute’s slogan, and its emblem, mounted on the wall, is a photograph of Aung San Suu Kyi. Sitting directly under the photo is the vice-chairman of her National League for Democracy, former general U Tin Oo. “These young people are the future of our movement,” he tells me after all the students of the introductory course in social studies have received their certificates.
A guitar appears and everyone begins singing the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” It’s a poignant moment; just hours earlier the leader of the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party, U Thein Sein, had been selected as Burma’s first post-military president following a widely criticized election that the National League for Democracy chose not to contest.
Dismissed by many in the West as a sham, this return to democracy has been carefully stage-managed, with the military retaining most of the power afforded to the new “democratic” institutions. But the political transition is taking place against a backdrop of subtle yet potentially significant changes in some sections of Burmese society.
A military regime renowned for its oppression has tacitly allowed an independent and increasingly vibrant civil society movement to develop. The most prominent members of this
Suu Kyi speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Bayda Institute Library. Photo courtesy of Mizzima News
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movement are small humanitarian organizations, often run by volunteers, many of which are beginning to link up with international donors keen to empower those working outside the government apparatus. In the process, small and airless urban apartments and classrooms like those at the Bayda Institute have become ground zero for a new phase in the struggle for meaningful political change.
The shift has partly resulted from a recognition that economic, governmental and societal changes will not emerge from national-level politics alone. The military regime and the National League for Democracy have essentially been engaged in a twenty-year standoff, with the latter seemingly unable to move on from the victory it achieved in the 1990 poll and the former unwilling to engage in dialogue.
International condemnation, travel bans, aid cuts and economic sanctions have only made the military – in power since 1962 – more determined to manage political change on its own terms. This leaves an impression of a Burmese populace lacking any ability to act as agents of change.
Yet Burma, as the few people who visit would k now, is no North Korea, and many opportunities exist to carve out space independent of the government.
“We’re tired of being represented in your newspapers as cowering in fear and barefoot, scrabbling in the mud. It’s just insulting,” says one activist quoted in a recent Asia Times Online article. The local founder of a small private school in Rangoon told me recently, “From the outside, it appears that you can’t do anything independently of the government. But that’s simply not true anymore.”
In the prevailing narrative, the only meaningful form of dissent is direct confrontation, usually in street protests like those in September 2007 when the military is thought to have killed as many as a hundred people. But if this thinking was ever accurate, it is certainly outdated now. The crackdown that followed has convinced many activists that a different approach is required to bring about change.
“The more we focus on the politics at the centre, the more we will reach for the easy condemnation or economic sanction and hope that somehow things will change,” wrote the historian and former UN official, Thant Myint-U, in The River of Lost Footsteps, his highly acclaimed 2006 history of Burma. “If change comes it will not be through the front door but through the back, as part of a changing economy and changing society.”
Kyi speaks at the Bayda Institute. Photo courtesy of Burma Democratic Concern
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The Bayda Institute was set up late last year to provide young people with skills and political and historical knowledge. Its founder, thirty-seven-year-old Myo Yan Naung Thein, is passionate and politically minded and, like most of his peers, has spent considerable time in prison. Jailed for seven years after leading student protests in the mid 1990s, he spent a further two years behind bars following the September 2007 uprising.
It was after being released in September 2009 that he says he noticed cultural and behavioral change. “Much to my surprise, I found there were many CSOs” – civil society organizations – “operating here,” the smartly dressed activist says, his voice echoing off the bare walls of the Bayda Institute. “We could talk openly about politics, community mobilization, civic education – things we couldn’t discuss openly two years ago.”
He contrasts this with his time as a student activist constantly under the surveillance of Military Intelligence, which was largely dismantled after a military purge in 2004. “There was no Egress then,” he says, referring to Myanmar Egress, perhaps the country’s most well-known training organization. “No politics, no discussions, no photos of Aung San [independence leader and father of Aung San Suu Kyi]. We would whisper in groups of five or six, then we’d get a spark
and fifty or sixty of us would protest.”
Just how and why these opportunities have arisen – and even whether they exist at all – is hotly debated. Cyclone Nargis, which hit Burma in May 2008 and caused unprecedented damage and loss of life, is often considered a pivotal moment. When the government was slow to help stricken communities in the Ayeyarwady delta region and to allow international relief workers into the country, thousands of ordinary Burmese leapt to action, forming groups to raise funds and distribute aid.
The cyclone, which killed more than 138,000 people, led to greater
interaction between local organizations and the aid community: the larger organizations gained direct access to international support, while many smaller groups assisted international NGOs with the distribution of relief items. Some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in relief funding went to programs run by local NGOs.
Three years on, with Nargis-related programs over or winding down, many have turned their attention to alleviating other needs, particularly through community-based health and education programs. Community organizations have played an important role in the response to subsequent
People displaced by Cyclone Nargis at a refugee camp in Kyondah village, Burma, 22 May 2008. Photo courtesy of Reuters
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disasters, including Cyclone Giri in October 2010 and a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Burma’s eastern Shan State in March this year. Their participation will be crucial if Burma is to meet the UN-backed Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline.
When Nargis hit, Burma was preparing for a referendum to endorse a new constitution that would usher in the country’s most significant period of political change in at least a generation. This much-criticized process also opened a door of sorts to activists. Many top generals left the military to enter the country’s new parliaments and previously dormant politicians returned to the scene. Millions voted for the first time, and political discussion – essentially banned for two decades – returned to teashops, markets and workplaces. While the Union Solidarity and Development Party won an overwhelming majority, ethnic political parties still fared quite well and some opposition candidates from the majority Bamar ethnic group were elected.
Bayda’s Myo Yan Naung Thein says he is far from satisfied with the transition process the military foisted on the people but he also sees the possibilities. One of the institute’s longer-term aims is to train potential candidates for elections in 2015 and 2020. “The 2008 constitution has the potential to cause the military some headaches,” he says. “We now have a form of democracy, with some institutions, but we need to turn it into a participatory democracy. That
will require clever politicians and strong CSOs working together.”
The path that the Bayda Institute is treading has been well worn by Myanmar Egress, a Rangoon-based training centre established by a group of businesspeople and academics in 2006. Offering courses with titles such as Social Entrepreneurship, Mass Communications, and Enterprising Leadership for State Building, Myanmar Egress has also conducted political education programs – attended by candidates from many opposition political parties – and distributed DVDs explaining the 2008 constitution and parliamentary system before last year’s poll.
Because of its political focus, Egress is accepted neither by the military government nor by activists in exile, as illustrated in a response to a recent article in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Journalist Mark McKinnon had quoted Egress founder Nay Win Maung, causing the executive director of Canadian Friends of Burma, Tin Maung Htoo, to respond: “Not only did MacKinnon fail to inform his readers that Nay Win Maung owns and publishes two pro-government newspapers, he described Nay Win Maung as being from ‘an independent civil-society organization.’ One look at Nay Win Maung’s background suggests that his claims to be part of Burmese civil society are questionable at best. The Washington Post described Nay Win Maung as ‘a son of a military officer brought up among Burma’s military elites, giving him good connections to military insiders.’”
Myanmar Egress members (above). Photo courtesy of Myanmar Egress
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But the distinction between “good” and “bad” in Burma has never been clear-cut. Like Nay Win Maung, many of those establishing community organizations, which generally receive little or no donor support, have benefited in some way from the opening up of the economy in the 1990s after a disastrous decades-long experiment with socialism. Indeed, the emergence of civil society would not have been possible without a degree of economic liberalization.
While much of this newfound wealth has been concentrated in the hands of the families of regime members and their cronies, it has also created something akin to a middle class, primarily in urban areas, which is painfully aware of the failings of the military regime and eager to do something about it. Importantly, these Burmese have access to communication technologies – mobile phones and the internet – that were not available here just a decade ago.
“Those belonging to the new middle class became economically empowered and some became socially engaged,” says Marie Lall from the University of London, who has been visiting Burma since 2005 for her research. Over a cup of sweet tea in a Rangoon teashop, the energetic Lall – whose twin focuses are education and Burma–India relations – describes to me how it would have been much more difficult for civil society to develop during the socialist era, as people would not have had the means to run an organization. “Two things play a vital role in a country’s political development – the middle classes and civil society organizations,” says Lall. “Usually they are linked, as it is only the middle classes who are able to set up and run such organizations.”
Activists have targeted Marie Lall and historian Thant Myint-U for their views, trotting out the all-too-familiar “junta apologists” tag. In one recent example, a Burmese defector wrote an article arguing t hat the government was using Thant Myint-U – the grandson of former UN Secretary-General U Thant – to improve its international image. Claiming that U Thant and his family had been recruited to spruik for the regime, the writer, a former deputy head of mission at the Burmese embassy in Washington, DC, said they had virtually “become its overseas representatives.”
The article – and countless others like it – is indicative of the massive divisions that exist between those inside and those outside the country. For Lall, the lack of recognition many civil society organizations receive from exiled activists is another factor hindering their growth.
Inside the country the debate is less acrimonious. Since it was deregistered last year, the National League for Democracy has sought to link up with and organize community-based organizations. In a recent interview, Aung San Suu Kyi disputed the premise that a larger middle class would move the country towards democracy but
A strong middle class is crucial to economic success in Burma. Photo courtesy of CBC News
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was generally supportive of the civil society movement that developed during her most recent period of house arrest between 2003 and 2010. “More people, especially young people, are realizing that if they want change, they’ve got to go about it themselves – they can’t depend on a particular person,” she told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Most local non-government organizations and community groups are less overtly political than Bayda and Egress and usually describe themselves as apolitical. But many of their employees and volunteers participated in political activities during last year’s election, according to Ko Kyaw (not his real name), who works for a well-known local NGO that provides training support to community-based organizations.
“In our network of about 300 people, I would say about half were actively involved in the election in various ways. Some became like citizen journalists, others joined political parties,” Ko Kyaw tells me. “Unlike their parents, these young people are not afraid [of politics]… Many were excited about the election, in the sense that they could finally become involved in politics.”
Many humanitarian programs also have the potential to impart important democratic concepts such as transparency and accountability in
communities where party politics is largely absent. In the Ayeyarwady delta, for example, one NGO established village-level committees to manage agricultural equipment it had provided following Cyclone Nargis.
“If the village head” – who is appointed by the military government – “was not respected, he wouldn’t be included or might be given an ‘advisory’ role,” said a staff member from the organization, who asked not to be named. “The communities were able to see in just a few months how consensus decision-making worked and what the benefits were.”
Examples like these have caught the attention of international donors and analysts looking for solutions to Burma’s political stasis. “A strong civil society is something we should seek and encourage in Burma,” a diplomat based at the US embassy in Rangoon wrote in a July 2008 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. “It will make any democratic transition in Burma more likely to succeed.”
When the Australian government announced in early 2010 that its aid to Burma would increase from A $29 million to A$50 million, the program was expanded to include a “capacity-building” element. In announcing the increase, former foreign minister Stephen Smith said that while “decades of military rule have eroded civil society and civilian institutions… Burma’s capacity cannot be allowed to completely atrophy to the ultimate disadvantage and cost of its people.”
An increasing number of young people in Burma are expressing their views and protesting the government. Photo courtesy of CBC News
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More recently, when the British government announced it too would significantly boost aid to Burma over the next four years, supporting civil society groups was a major priority. Paul Whittingham, head of the Rangoon office of Britain’s Department for International Development, told me that some of the £46 million (A$75 million) a year will be “targeted directly at civil society, trying to strengthen civil society, capacity building and to help [organizations] grow,” which would in turn “lay the foundations for a more democratic society.”
Because they’re closer to the community, local groups are more likely than international NGOs to instigate long-term change, particularly given the country’s decades-long ethnic conflict. “We believe that building the capacity of civil society is important, especially here where it is less developed than in other countries,” Whittingham says, as a flash of lightning lights up the bare conference room where we are meeting in the embassy’s colonial-era building on Strand Road. “But our principal focus is how we can promote the way [groups] engage with each other. A key part of our work to reduce conflict is to get groups used to talking to each other to resolve difficulties through non-violent means.”
While a part of Britain’s aid policy is not to provide any funding to or through the government, Whittingham says Britain will be watching for any opportunities “to work in new ways in a new political environment” that may appear. “I’m extremely cautious about imagining there’s going to be any significant change in that regard but we have to be ready to respond and we’ve always
said that we will judge the new government on its actions on the ground.” But Whittingham, who has been in Burma for almost three years, cautioned that aid alone was not likely to present a long-term solution to Burma’s myriad problems. “The fact remains that while big policy remains so problematic and so poor, significant change is going to be difficult to achieve.”
This approach acknowledges that immediate change – in the form of an overthrow of the regime – is extremely unlikely in Burma. Building an independent civil society through existing political structures appears a better bet for sustainable long-term change. “As Burma’s military leaders are drawn out of their shell and activities on the
ground expand and accumulate across sectors,” according to Morten Pedersen, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of New South Wales, “it is certainly possible to imagine international programs becoming catalysts for broader internally driven reforms.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of local organizations has mushroomed in recent years, but hard data is difficult to come by. One recent UN report suggested that – in addition to possibly thousands of community groups – there were about 300 local NGOs in Burma, of which only one-in-ten was formally registered. Even for purely humanitarian organizations, the registration process can take several years.
Australian president and Burmese president shake hands. Australia recently announced plants to boost aid to Burma. Photo courtesy of Mizzima News
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In February, when an opposition legislator observed in parliament that associations, NGOs and unions “are sine qua non for a democratic society” and asked whether the government had any plan to simplify the registration process, he was stonewalled by former general U Maung Oo, home affairs minister at the time. “So far a total of 218 organizations have been formed under the agreement of the respective ministries,” U Maung Oo said. “Therefore organizations and associations are allowed to register their organizations in accordance with the prescribed rules and regulations.”
As the opposition legislator noted, the registration difficulties mean many groups are essentially “unlawful associations.” This presents major headaches not only for the organizations themselves but also for donors and international partners. For example, those groups with larger ambitions need registration to get a bank account so they can manage funds from donors.
Marie Lall says that without training, local organizations may not be in a position to benefit from the expected increase in humanitarian aid to Burma. While the country received just US$7 per capita in official development assistance in 2009 – the lowest among least-developed countries – that figure is expected to rise significantly over the next few years. “I anticipate that just growing will pose challenges to many organizations. Demand for their work will grow faster than they can keep up with.”
There is cautious optimism that the government will take a more inclusive approach towards both local and international NGOs. In his inaugural speech on 30 March, less than three years after the military initially refused to allow aid workers into the delta following Cyclone Nargis, President U Thein Sein made an uncharacteristic pledge to “work more closely” with the United Nations and local and international NGOs on health and education projects.
Back at the Bayda Institute there’s evidence of the precarious situation many civil society organizations find themselves in. Shortly after the graduation ceremony, local officials pressured the landlord of the institute’s rented apartment to cancel the lease.
“She came to us in tears,” says Myo Yan Naung Thein. “She didn’t want to make us leave but felt she had little choice. They told her we were conducting political activities and she would get in trouble if we stayed.” It would have been easy for the institute’s members to walk away, but they persevered and found a new home in nearby Sanchaung Township. On 5 April, Bayda held another graduation ceremony, this time for its on e-month Capacity Building (Political Science) course.
Photo courtesy of Mizzima News
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When I saw Myo Yan Naung Thein recently, Bayda had moved to its third location in as many months, this time in a leafy quarter of Thingangyun Township. Despite already falling foul of the authorities on more than one occasion, the institute’s founder was confident he would be able to successfully navigate the country’s “very complicated political situation” and help nurture a
more politically engaged and better educated citizenry.
“They are watching us, of course. But whether I’m arrested or not depends on what I do. It’s important that they don’t feel threatened,” he said, before adding: “I do not believe any more that we can win by confrontation. We need to stop focusing on the top guys [in the military] and instead think about what we can do to change and improve our society.”
“Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward egality and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy. I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
The Bayda Institute has had to relocate to several different locations, but they continue to persevere and fight for a democratic government. Photo courtesy of BCB News.
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What Will Burma's Economic Future Look Like? From BBC News Business By Saira Syed 17 November 2011
As Burma's political leaders win the symbolic support of a fast-growing region, the fortunes of the population in the resource-rich country are not looking as bright.
On Thursday, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) endorsed Burma to take on the leadership of the 10-member regional bloc in 2014, seen as a milestone in the government's quest for recognition.
Since the military handed over power to a nominal civilian government, there has been plenty of reformist rhetoric and some action - including calls for peace with ethnic minority groups, easing of media controls and the release of some political prisoners.
But analysts say sanctions imposed by the European Union and the US on the country are not going away anytime soon. So what does this mean for the economy?
'Geographic backdoor' Burma has massive economic potential. It has one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, as well as other minerals.
It is also rich in timber, agricultural products and precious stones, exporting mainly to Thailand, India and China.
Many are wondering when Burma's vast economic potential will start to benefit the poorest in the country. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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The country is geographically well positioned to be a gateway for trade.
Burma sits between India and China, with ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea. If developed with more rail and pipeline projects, Burma could link ASEAN with India and the rest of South Asia.
"Burma is basically the backdoor to the Chinese and Indian markets and economies," says Maung Zarni, co-ordinator for Burma and Myanmar Research Initiative at the London School of Economics.
"For this reason the unconditional embrace of the dictatorship by ASEAN and other nations is a given. It's commercially driven," Mr Zarni says.
• Gross domestic product is expected to rise by 5.5% in 2011
Exports: $8.6bn (2010)
• Export commodities: natural gas, wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, clothing, jade and gems
• Export partners: Thailand 38.3%, India 20.8%, China 12.9%
Imports: $4.2bn (2010)
• Import commodities: fabric, petroleum products, fertilizer, plastics, machinery, transport equipment; cement, construction materials, crude oil, food products, edible oil
• Import partners: China 38.9%, Thailand 23.2%, Singapore 12.9%
Source: CIA, The World Factbook
It's also driven by a desire for ASEAN to limit China's influence in the strategically important country.
Burma has the perfect geography for land rich in natural resources. Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma
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China and Burma have previously maintained a strong bilateral relationship, one that emerged from a shared communist history.
Today, China is the biggest foreign investor in Burma with pledged investment reaching above $14bn in the financial year ending in March 2011, according to official data.
“There has been competition between China and ASEAN over Burma; they both want to have a stronghold in the country”
Pavin Chachavalpongpun Institute of South East Asian studies
Chinese money is backing multi-billion dollar pipeline projects, including one that will carry oil across Burma to link Chinese refineries. And a separate project that will carry offshore natural gas to China from Burma.
Recently, however, Burma suspended the Chinese-funded $3.6bn Myitsone dam on the Irawaddy River in the north after public opposition.
Analysts say Burma is eager to be less dependent on China, and attract foreign investment from South East Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
"There has been competition between China and ASEAN over Burma, they both want to have a stronghold in the country," says Pavin Chachavalpongpun from the Institute of South East Asian studies in Singapore.
A free-trade agreement between ASEAN countries goes into effect in 2015, a move that ASEAN is hoping will allow the bloc to act as a counterweight to China in the region.
Domestically however, the economy is plagued by inefficient government policies, corruption and chronic rural poverty.
Industries such as tourism have not been developed to their full potential and many analysts say that Burma's economic picture won't improve until it becomes more welcoming to businesses.
Burmese protestors hold signs protesting Chinese interference. Photo courtesy of BBC
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A massive dam project backed by China was halted after protests.
"You have a regime that is obsessed with its own security above economic development," says Mr Zarni.
"There are no responsive, transparent and accountable business procedures."
This makes businesses feel vulnerable and has kept them mostly out, except for a few "irresistible areas such as oil and gas," he adds.
Most of the foreign investment into Burma is, in fact, in oil and gas exploration, with French and US energy companies having a presence there despite sanctions imposed by the US and European Union governments.
Another barrier to foreign investment is the country's multiple exchange rates. Burma has an official exchange rate and an unofficial, black market, rate.
At the central bank's request, a team from the International Monetary Fund recently went to Burma to try and unify the exchange rates as well as lift restrictions on international payments and transfers.
But the problems are not just procedural, they are political, and they will need political will to be resolved.
Although small steps have been taken, there is a long road ahead for Burma to start capitalizing on its vast potential, and for the benefits to start trickling down to the poorest of the population.
The upcoming Shwe gas project in Burma is expected to provide the military dominate government more than USD 24 billion in 30 years. However the government’s lack of transparency makes no benefit to the people of Burma. Photo courtesy of Arakan Oil Watch/ May 2012
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More Milestones in Burma From BBC News Asia-Pacific 23 January 2012 Political prisoners like 88 Generation Students leader Min Ko Naing are now free.
As the European Union suspends visa bans on leading politicians in Burma, South Asia specialist Marie Lall looks at recent dramatic changes in the country and what lies behind them.
Nowadays Burma is in the news almost daily and at the very least weekly.
There have been regular and significant milestones since 30 March 2011, the date on which military leaders formally handed power to the civilianized government led by President Thein Sein.
The eye-watering speed of change has surprised even the most optimistic country specialists and Western nations are now seriously discussing the lifting of sanctions.
The most recent and momentous event was the release of 651 prisoners on 13 January.
Those freed included almost all of the internationally known prisoners of conscience such as 88 Generation Students leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, as well as one of the leaders of the "saffron revolution" in 2007, monk Ashin Gambira.
The amnesty also included around 60 former military personnel who had been jailed in 2004 when Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, former prime minister and head of military intelligence, was convicted on charges of corruption.
The latter group was not necessarily viewed as political prisoners by western human rights organizations; however they were nevertheless jailed on political charges.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press
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The prisoners were mostly freed unconditionally and the official statement read: "enabling them to participate in the political process [... and] nation building tasks".
There have been previous amnesties, one as recent as 4 January with 38,964 prisoners having their sentences reduced and 6,656 released.
However this time the government based itself on the National League for Democracy's (NLD) list of 604 prisoners and freed more than half of them.
Conflicts and by-elections
Another no less historic moment came with the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the government (represented by the Kayin State Level Peace-Making Group) and the Karen National Union (KNU) the day before on 12 January.
REFORM IN BURMA
• 7 Nov: First polls in 20 years • 13 Nov: Aung San Suu Kyi freed from house arrest • 30 Mar : Transfer of power to new government complete • 19 Aug: Aung San Suu Kyi meets Burmese President Thein Sein • 12 Oct: More than 200 political prisoners freed • 13 Oct: New labor laws allowing unions passed • 17 Nov: Burma granted Asean chair in 2014 • 23 Dec: NLD registers as political party • 12 Jan: Karen ceasefire signed • 13 Jan: Highest-profile political prisoners freed
This has hopefully brought one of Asia's longest-standing conflicts to an end after 60 years of armed resistance. This agreement follows ceasefires with other ethnic groups - the Shan State Army, the Wa and Mongla in Shan State and the Chin National Front in Chin State.
While there is a long way to go between a ceasefire and a comprehensive peace agreement, this is the necessary first step to bring peace to the region and to the ravaged Burma-Thai border.
Unfortunately the conflict in Kachin state continues although the president has ordered a halt to the fighting. It can only be hoped that the recent meetings in Ruili on the Chinese side of the border will also lead to the much-awaited ceasefire.
On 29 December the Election Commission announced that by-elections would be held on 1 April to fill parliamentary seats left vacant by the appointment of ministers.
Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi announced her candidacy for the Kawhmu constituency in Rangoon.
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The NLD is expected to take seats in parliament, taking part in the political process they had to date rejected.
Interviewed by the press, Speaker of the House Shwe Mann stated "If she [Suu Kyi] wins in the April by-election, we'll have to a chance to discuss and talk. I'll be waiting for her."
These are indeed momentous times for a country that even a year ago was still considered a pariah nation.
The latest developments come on the heels of increased freedom of the press, new labor laws allowing unions, a process of national reconciliation between the NLD and the government, and Burma being elected ASEAN chair for 2014.
Activist lobbies located in the West or on the border have increasingly been claiming that it was their isolationist policies and the sanctions regime that have brought about these changes.
But in fact it is in-country civil society organizations, both ethnic and Bamar [Burmese], which have worked tirelessly over the last five years to bring about the changes.
The New Year started with sad news as Dr Nay Win Maung, a leading civil society activist and secretary general of Myanmar Egress, died of a heart attack.
Myanmar Egress, a Rangoon-based civil society group, has been at the forefront of pushing for reforms.
Those, like him, of what has been called the "third force", realized that it would be negotiations, not confrontation or revolution, which in the end would solidify Burma's reform process and bring about the changes we are witnessing.
Over five years they and other similar organizations started to educate and create change agents amongst the younger generations.
The greatest success of some civil society groups has been to convince the new president and his men that this reform process is indeed in their interests, tapping into the acknowledgment by the military that their direct rule could not continue indefinitely.
Aung San Suu Kyi signs the condolence book for Dr Nay Win Maung. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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The opposition to the former regime remains deeply divided, but over Dr Nay Win Maung's death many came together - even Aung San Suu Kyi came to pay her respects.
Today the debate is about lifting sanctions.
The current Burmese government has indeed kept its side of the bargain by engendering a solid reform process and releasing the prisoners of conscience as had been demanded both inside and outside the country.
Thein Sein wants sanctions - indicative of a pariah nation status - removed as acknowledgement of what he is doing and to strengthen his position vis-a-vis the old guard, in case the reform process triggers a backlash.
And unlike the former regime his coffers are empty - he needs trade, investment and technical assistance if he and his government are to survive.
Measures to date taken by the West - sending high-level diplomats, upgrading diplomatic ties - have built confidence but this is not enough.
If this reformist government is to survive sanctions do need to be lifted - the most important thing, however, is an immediate start of technical assistance.
It is time for Western governments to support the efforts of local organizations working inside Burma and to encourage the top-down reform process which the government itself has initiated in its own interests.
“The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
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Burma Elections: Suu Kyi Voters on Their Future Hopes
From BBC News Asia 1 April 2012
Farmer Thaung Nyant said he was too excited to sleep the night before polling.
As Burmese voted in by-elections for 45 seats across the country, the BBC's Jonah Fisher talked to residents of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's constituency about their hopes for the future.
Saturday night was not a restful one for Thaung Nyant.
"I was so excited about voting I didn't sleep at all," the betel nut and bamboo farmer said proudly.
Then as dawn broke in the town of Kawhmu he could wait no longer. Thaung rode his bike to the polling station and became one of the first Burmese ever to cast a vote for Aung San Suu Kyi.
Fifteen months ago, when an election was last held, the 52 year-old didn't even bother to take part.
"There was no candidate I liked," he said with a smile. "Now we have Daw Suu and we all love and yearn for her."
In the 2010 vote, Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest in Rangoon. That vote was widely derided as a sham with no international observers or foreign journalists allowed in. Ms Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), declined to take part.
This time, after a year of dramatic reforms, she agreed to compete in one of 45 by-elections being held across Burma. She chose as her constituency a rural district located to the south west of Rangoon in the Irrawaddy Delta.
And it was there that Burma's Nobel laureate spent the morning of polling day.
Ignoring concerns about her fragile health she'd travelled from Rangoon on Saturday to spend the eve of the poll among her electorate.
Photo courtesy of BBC News
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Then at first light, accompanied by hundreds of supporters and journalists, she toured Kawhmu's polling stations. With the roads dusty and in bad shape this was probably the first and only time the area will experience traffic gridlock.
One of those excitedly lining the streets to see their candidate was a shaven-headed nun, Thadimonhtar Htay Yi.
"We are here to support Aunty Suu" she said, "and to thank her for her sacrifice for us".
Alongside her and unable to suppress a wide grin that showed off his teeth stained red from chewing betel nut was Htwe Thein Naing.
"I can see the sun shine now," he said. "There will be more change in the future."
Whoever wins Kawhmu and the other 44 seats, it won't have any bearing on who governs Burma. These are just by-elections that make up a small fraction of the 664 parliamentary seats.
But what has become more important is the question of the fairness and whether enough is being done to make this a credible democratic process. A cautious thumbs up from observers could mean the further loosening of international sanctions on Burma.
On the ground this extra scrutiny has brought new pressure.
"I've worked harder than in 2010," said Win Oo as he manned a table outside a polling booth in Kawhmu. "If there are any mistakes it's the reputation of both the government and the country that suffers."
Turnout at his polling station in Kawhmu had been brisk, he said, with half of all the registered voters visiting before 09:30.
Thadimonhtar Htay Yi (R) said people were lining the streets to support 'Aunty Suu.' Photo courtesy of BBC News
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It had also been a busy day for Myo Win, the village chairman for the NLD. He'd twice served time in prison for his political activities but exuded the confidence of a man who had a much-loved global icon as his candidate.
"She's definitely going to win here," he said, "probably with over 90%".
'Far from perfect'
It was hard to argue. Finding anyone who'd admit that they voted for Ms Suu Kyi's military doctor opponent in Kawhmu was difficult. But echoing similar complaints from counts across Burma, Mr. Win said the election been far from perfect.
"We're not happy with the voting lists, there have been discrepancies there and those who've turned 18 since the last election haven't been included either," he said.
With the Kawhmu result close to a foregone conclusion, thoughts are already turning to what sort of a local parliamentarian Ms Suu Kyi will be.
"We need better transportation and opportunity for young people here," said U Myo Khine, a father of two, as he watched her convoy pass by.
Others have their eyes on the much greater prize, the general election of 2015.
"The army has changed and are now more lenient," said NLD official Myo Win. "So there is more of a possibility that Aung San Suu Kyi can become president in 2015."
Those like Mr. Win who are optimistic about the future remain cautious too. One year of fast moving reforms does not necessarily mean Burma has changed forever.
Aung San Suu Kyi passes by in front of election officials as she visits a polling station in Kawhmu township April 1, 2012, where she stands as a candidate in parliamentary by-elections. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Damir Sagolj
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What Now For Burma After Election Landslide? From BBC News South East Asia Correspondent By Rachel Harvey 4 April 2012 There was never any doubt that Aung San Suu Kyi would win her seat in Sunday's by-elections in Burma, but few predicted the scale of her party's landslide victory.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) looks to have won all but one of the seats it contested, though the results have yet to be ratified.
But if the margin of success was a welcome surprise to Burma's pro-democracy movement, it will also have been an unsettling shock to the military establishment and its proxy party, the USDP, which received a drubbing at the polls.
The NLD even took seats in the nation's capital, Nay Pyi Taw, a city created by military generals and largely populated by government civil servants.
Amid the mood of celebration in the aftermath of the vote, there were notes of caution and a slight undercurrent of anxiety.
The caution comes from the realization that these by-elections represent only a toe-hold in a parliament still dominated by the military's proxy party and the block of seats reserved for unelected members of the armed forces.
"The US and EU should not reward the regime simply because the NLD has some seats in the parliament”----- Aung Din US Campaign for Burma
"We don't believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi alone can bring about the changes and development for our country," said one young man waiting outside the NLD's cramped offices in Rangoon.
Aung San Suu Kyi has called on her supporters to be magnanimous in victory. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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"We can't say we are on the democratic path yet... but over the next few years, under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, I think there will be more changes."
There are huge expectations resting on the shoulders of the 66-year-old national icon. Aung San Suu Kyi has won admiration at home and abroad for her dedication and sacrifice as a democracy activist and former political prisoner.
But now she must chart a course as an elected politician in a system still packed with men who served under the former autocratic regime against which she fought for so long.
The anxiety stems from the knowledge that there are still reactionary forces in Burma, those who fear reform in general and the current pace of change in particular.
The scenes of mass euphoria outside NLD headquarters in Rangoon may persuade them that it is time to apply the brakes to Burma's nascent process of liberalization.
Which is why Aung San Suu Kyi was quick to try to calm her supporters, striking a conciliatory tone as she urged them to be magnanimous in victory. Gloating could be dangerous.
How then should the outside world calibrate its response?
Sunday's elections were seen in many capitals as a barometer of the government's commitment to political
reform after a year in which it introduced a series of encouraging changes.
Western nations will want to acknowledge the reforms made under President Thein Sein
Burma's regional neighbors in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have already called for all sanctions to be lifted.
That seems unlikely. On the one hand Western nations will want to reward and bolster reformers within the government, especially President Thein Sein.
Despite imperfections in the election process, most people seem to agree that the campaign and poll were a huge improvement on the widely-criticized national election in 2010 which the NLD chose to boycott. Many argue that deserves recognition.
Burma’s president, Thein Sein, is pictured above. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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"We are prepared to match positive steps of reform in Burma with steps of our own," the US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters in Washington.
But the administration is restricted in how much it can do. Most sanctions are under the purview of Congress, where sentiment tends to be more hawkish.
The European Union is currently reviewing its policy towards Burma. Sanctions, which include an arms embargo, and an assets freeze imposed on nearly 500 people, are due to expire on 30 April.
Aung San Suu Kyi must now adapt to her new role as the opposition in parliament.
Earlier this year, the EU lifted travel bans on more than 80 senior officials, including the president. It looks certain to ease restrictions further.
But there may be an argument made for holding something in reserve to use as leverage to keep the Burmese leadership on the reformist path.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, avoided making specific commitments when she congratulated the government and people of Burma on the conduct of the by-elections.
"We will continue to support the ongoing reforms in Myanmar [Burma]," she said, "and look forward to developing a new and co-operative relationship as these go forward."
Exile groups are urging Western governments to be circumspect.
"The US and EU should not reward the regime simply because the NLD has some seats in the parliament," Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, cautioned.
"They should wait until we see clearly how these newly-elected MPs are treated by the USDP and the military in parliament."
There in perhaps lies the rub. The recent by-elections are being hailed as an important step in Burma's transition from decades of authoritarian military rule towards a more open, democratic and representative system.
But it is a transition fraught with difficulties. Aung San Suu Kyi will feel that the risk she took in deciding to participate in the elections has been vindicated by the scale of her party's success.
But the real test will be to see how effective she is able to be as an agent for change within parliament.
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EU Agrees to Suspend Most Burma Sanctions From BBC News Asia 23 April 2012 Burma's parliament re-opened today, amid a boycott from the opposition.
The European Union has formally agreed to suspend sanctions against Burma for a year in recognition of "historic changes", officials say.
An embargo on arms sales, however, will stay in place, the EU Council said.
The EU had imposed measures against individuals and companies from Burma. It had also withheld some aid money.
The move comes after Burma's parliament re-opened amid a boycott by the opposition because of a row over the oath of office for MPs.
The EU decision, which had been expected, will take effect later this week.
"The European Union has followed with respect and appreciation the historic changes in Myanmar/Burma over the past year and encourages the wide-ranging reforms to continue," a statement released by the Council of the European Union at the ministers' meeting in Luxembourg said.
"As a means to welcome and encourage the reform process, the council will suspend restrictive measures imposed on the government, with the exception of the arms embargo, which it will retain."
• US: Arms embargo, bans on investment and financial services, as well as a ban on most Burmese imports
Burma’s Parliament has been opened to address controversy over the oath of office. Photo courtesy of BBC News
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• EU: Ban on arms exports to, and investment in, Burma. Visa restrictions and asset freezes targeting key officials, ban on exports of gems, timber and metals
• Canada: Asset freezes and ban on all imports and exports as well as financial services • Australia: Visa restrictions and ban on arms exports
Steps to ease sanctions:
• US: To start 'targeted' lifting of investment and financial services bans. Will relax visa ban to help officials travel to US. Will maintain sanctions on people and institutions that oppose reform. Waived ban on technical assistance in February
• EU: In January suspended visa ban on certain ministers and officials. In April, agreed to suspend sanctions for a year, but kept arms embargo
It said it would continue to "monitor closely the situation on the ground" and constantly review its measures, as well as "respond positively to progress on ongoing reforms".
The council, however, still "expects the unconditional release of remaining political prisoners and the removal of all restrictions placed on those already released".
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said that while "great progress has been made in Burma", they were still "very concerned about conflict and human rights abuses".
"This illustrates why it would be right to suspend, not to lift entirely the sanctions. They can be reimposed if Burma turns in the wrong direction," he said.
Meanwhile, the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi did not attend today's parliament session, saying they want to swear to "respect", rather than "safeguard" the constitution, which they say is undemocratic.
The 1 April by-elections saw Ms Suu Kyi and 42 NLD members elected as MPs.
"Only after the wording in the oath has been changed will we be able to attend the parliament," Ohn Kyaing, NLD spokesperson and newly-elected MP, told BBC Burmese.
The upper house of parliament convened in the morning and the lower house in the afternoon.
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Barack Obama Appoints Derek Mitchell as First US Ambassador to Burma
From The Guardian By Tom McCarthy 17 May 2012
The Obama administration has signalled a warming of relations between the US and Burma with the easing of trade restrictions and the appointment of an ambassador.
Diplomatic ties will be strengthened and US companies will gain new access to markets, in what Barack Obama declared was a "new chapter" in relations between the two countries.
The president named Derek Mitchell, currently a special envoy, as the first US ambassador to Burma, also known as Myanmar, since 1990. His appointment, if confirmed by the Senate, would be a significant step up from the current low-level ties between Burma and the US.
"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Burma," Obama said in a statement.
US companies will be allowed to export financial services and make new investments in the country, the president announced, although restrictions on doing business with companies tied to Burma's military regime, long vilified for human rights abuses, remain in place.
It was unclear whether US businesses would be allowed to work with the country's national energy company, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. US-owned companies including Chevron have sought contracts on oil and natural gas reserves in the country and offshore, according to Human Rights Watch.
The change of policy comes after a series of moves indicating a thaw in US-Burmese relations. A disputed but unusually open election in 2010 was followed by the release of the country's best-known dissident, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest. In December 2011, Hillary Clinton became the first US secretary of state to visit Burma in half a century.
US coordinator for policy on Myanmar, Derek Mitchell (L) poses for a photograph next to Myanmar President THein Sein as the President’s residence in Naypyidaw on July 11, 2012. Mitchell, the first US ambassador to Myanmar in over two decades will arrive to take up his post on July 11, 2012, US officials said, as dramatic reforms spur greater engagement with the longtime army-run nation. Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images
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Mitchell's appointment had been anticipated: he has overseen US engagement with Burma during the recent period of political reform.
The policy shift was welcomed by senior Republican senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell. "Today's announcements strike an appropriate balance between encouraging the process of reform now unfolding in Burma, while maintaining sufficient leverage to continue pressing the Burmese government for additional progress," they said in a joint statement.
Obama's announcement coincided with a visit by the Burmese foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin to the state department on Thursday afternoon, for a meeting with Clinton.
A former British colony, Burma witnessed decades of military rule and severe political oppression following a 1962 coup.
Human Rights Watch advised caution. "Tough rules are needed to ensure that new investments benefit the people of Burma and don't fuel human rights abuses and corruption, or end up strengthening the military's control over civilian authorities," the group said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Burma’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin after meeting in Washington. Photo courtesy of Yuri Gripas/Reuters
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Study Questions: Transitioning to Democracy
1. How have the United States and European Union rewarded change in Burma with increased political and economic engagement? 2. What is the significance of increased U.S. diplomatic engagement with Burma? How can American presence there contribute to the democracy movement? 3. How are economic development and political reform related in Burma? 4. Describe how regional actors, including ASEAN, China and India, factor into Burma’s political and economic development? 5. Why are many human rights groups wary of lifting sanctions again Burmese government? 6. How has Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in the democracy movement changed now that she is a member of the Burmese Parliament? 7. How was cylone Nargis a turning-point for Burmese civil society? 8. How do civil society groups contribute to the democracy movement in Burma?
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VII. Reference Materials Useful Websites Amnesty International www.amnestyusa.org BBC News Asia www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/asia EarthRights International www.earthrights.org Embassy of the United State in Burma burma.usembassy.gov/ Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org National Democratic Institute www.ndi.org/ The Echo Foundation www.echofoundation.org Time Magazine www.time.com The Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk US Campaign for Burma www.uscampaignforburma.org US State Department www.state.gov Books Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads Drawing heavily on his many fact-finding visits both inside Burma and along its frontiers, Benedict Rogers gives a unique appraisal of the current ethnic situation and its implications for the nation as a whole. Released June 2012.
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Freedom from Fear A new collection of writings by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi includes her acceptance speech as delivered by her son during her six-year incarceration and numerous reminiscences on her role in politics and her fear for her people.
Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant by Benedict Rogers Provides the first-ever account of Than Shwe’s journey from postal clerk to dictator, analyzing his rise through the ranks of the army, his training in psychological warfare, his belief in astrology, his elimination of rivals, and his ruthless suppression of dissent.
The Voice of Hope by Aung San Suu Kyi and Alan Clements Over a period of nine months, Alan Clements, a former Buddhist monk turned journalist and activist, met with Aung San Suu Kyi shortly after her release from her first house arrest in July 1995. With her trademark ability to speak directly and compellingly, she presents here her vision of engaged compassion and describes how she has managed to sustain her optimism and hope.
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses both houses of Parliament: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo1MHK1FBic Aung San Suu Kyi is honored at Oxford University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER444lGc3Qw&feature=fvwrel Aung San Suu Kyi honored by U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5Yt231PLzM Aung San Suu Kyi interviewed by Charlie Rose: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12564 Aung San Suu Kyi on Nonviolence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ZlLd1fnxU Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NihXxEDFIBM Aung San Suu Kyi receives U.S. Congressional Gold Medal: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/49093044#49093044 The Lady The Lady is the story of Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma's democracy movement, and her relationship with her husband, writer Michael Aris.
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Resources for Educators
In this lesson, students learn about the 2007 military violence against protesting monks in the devoutly Buddhist country of Myanmar. After investigating and “curating” an exhibit on the history, basic tenets, practices, and global influence of this ancient faith, students consider the implications of the military regime’s actions on Buddhist society in Myanmar.
Exploring Leadership: Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi
Description: Students consider leaders in their own lives, think about the qualities of leadership exhibited by Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (who has just been released) and write messages to Suu Kyi.
Seeds of Our Democracy: Core Values
Description: The learner will be introduced to the Core Democratic Values which citizens hold in common and their role as the source to inspire philanthropic action.
The Art of Buddhism:
Description: Students will learn about the birth of Buddhism, the life of Siddhartha Gautama, and the impact of Buddhism across the world.
Tolerance and Non-Violence in Civil Society:
Description: The learners will explore how a single act of violence or intolerance can effect a large population of people. They will explore alternative ways to voice an opinion in a nonviolent way and learn how acting philanthropically will often produce positive outcomes even out of tragedy.
Understanding Human Rights through One Woman’s struggle: Aung San Suu Kyi
Description: Working in small teams, students will explore the basic concepts of human rights as defined by the international community. Then they will see how rights can be denied by a government by studying the beliefs and experiences of Aung San Suu Kyi.
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Other Electronic Resources: Burma: Decades of Dissent: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1665535,00.html Burma Timeline: http://interactivetimeline.com/1127/burma-timeline/3.php?w=480 Conflict and Human Rights in Burma: https://conflictsinburma.crowdmap.com/ Freedom for Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2032170,00.html The Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml Interactive Myanmar Map: http://www.stimson.org/programs/myanmar-map/
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VIII. Appendix: About The Echo Foundation
A. The Echo Foundation: What We Do B. The Echo Foundation Five Initiatives C. The Echo Foundation Board of Trustees
“The Echo Foundation emerged as a cource of energy, imagination and hope. Driven by a sense of urgency, its struggle against hatred and indifference has already reverberated far beyond Charlotte and North Carolina.” – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate for Peace
The Echo Foundation Footsteps Student Ambassadors catalogue and shelve books collected for the Echo Children’s Library in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda, summer of 2010. Photo courtesy of The Echo Foundation
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THE ECHO FOUNDATION _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
WHAT WE DO
The Echo Foundation promotes understanding and inspires hope through education, service, and the development of leadership for a more humane world.
Echo was founded in 1997 following Wiesel’s visit to Charlotte that year. As the community-wide project Against Indifference concluded, Wiesel challenged the community to act on its convictions of human dignity, justice, and moral courage. He also offered his assistance in developing programs to address critical issues facing humankind.
Through comprehensive educational programs, The Echo Foundation equips individuals with moral and intellectual tools necessary to create positive change in their local and global communities. Echo initiatives use the power of example to educate about human rights, social justice, and urgent matters of sustainability. Experiential learning opportunities, programs using the arts in service to humankind, and facilitated dialogue in the pursuit of innovative solutions are hallmarks of the organization.
The foundation has hosted 26 humanitarians, Nobel Laureates and world leaders and created curriculum about each; serving over 730,000 students, and forging partnerships to benefit students worldwide. Recent projects have focused on Dr. Paul Farmer & Partners In Health; Africa expert and activist, John Prendergast, Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana; Science Nobel Laureates, Günter Blobel, Edmond Fischer, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Douglas Osheroff, Robert Richardson; founder of Doctors without Borders, Bernard Kouchner; Earth Institute Director, Jeffrey Sachs; Nobel Laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka; human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy; Chinese dissident Harry Wu; and others. For more information and printable copies of past curriculum, visit www.echofoundation.org.
1125 East Morehead St., Suite 101, Charlotte, NC 28204 USA Tel. 704-347-3844 Fax. 704-347-3845 www.echofoundation.org
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THE ECHO FOUNDATION _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Five Initiatives The Echo Foundation mission: “…to promote justice and inspire hope through education, service and the development of leadership for a more humane world” is realized through the implementation of five initiatives: I. Voices Against Indifference: A curriculum-based educational program, VAI connects high school
students with global humanitarians who exemplify the power of the individual to make a difference. Each year, VAI addresses critical issues facing humanity from the perspectives of our participating humanitarians with the underlying goals of shifting attitudes, fostering global awareness and promoting personal responsibility among youth. Simultaneously, VAI builds bridges across cultural divides by bringing students from all corners of the region together for dialogue. An extension of this initiative is Echo’s Annual Award Dinner, at which the guest humanitarian is the keynote speaker and a
local hero is honored with the Echo Award Against Indifference.
II. Forum for Hope: Designed to promote social responsibility among regional business, faith and education institutions from the top down, the Forum for Hope is an opportunity for community leaders to connect with global humanitarians. Participants explore effective means by which they can leverage their stature to create a culture of equality, dignity and mutual respect. Previous forums have included Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, Partners In Health Founder Dr. Paul Farmer, Doctors Without Borders Founder Dr. Bernard Kouchner, and Columbia Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs.
III. Footsteps Global Initiative: Travel and hands-on experiences have the capacity to transform
students in a way that transcends classroom learning; only by “doing” can young people fully appreciate the challenges that face them as future leaders. This leadership initiative for regional high school students promotes awareness and global citizenship through international travel and service. Competitively selected Ambassadors of the initiative participate in yearlong programming that combines intensive study, volunteerism and travel to locations of great humanitarian interest.
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IV. Living Together in the 21st Century: Living Together in the 21st Century is a curriculum-based,
education outreach project for 2nd grade students originated by Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel, with involvement by child activist, Jonathan Kozol, and created by Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers. Living Together teaches problem solving strategies, conflict resolution and respect for others. The underlying mission of the project is to simultaneously begin to build compassion for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds, and to teach life skills in young children that will prepare them to live in our society harmoniously. Living Together has been mandated as an integral
part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary school curriculum. V. Books Beyond Borders: Books Beyond Borders encourages international understanding and
action on behalf of others by helping Charlotte students furnish libraries for children around the world. To date, libraries have been created at Ningyuan Middle School in China, the Beit Tzipora Centers for Ethiopian Children in Israel, Lexington City Schools in North Carolina, and The Echo Children’s Library at Nkondo #1 Primary School in Rwanda
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T H E E C H O F O U N D A T I O N ________________________________________________________________________
- International Board of Advisors -
Elie Wiesel, Honorary Chairperson Nobel Laureate for Peace, 1986
Dr. Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 2004 Dr. Paul Farmer, Founder, Partners In Health
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Chair, Dept. of African & African American Studies, Harvard University Kerry Kennedy, International Human Rights Activist and Author
Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Founder, Doctors Without Borders Jonathan Kozol, Child Advocate
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University Harry Wu, Executive Director, The Laogai Research Foundation
- Charlotte Board of Advisors -
Robert Bertges, Executive Vice President, Wells Fargo Clarice Cato Goodyear, Community Volunteer
The Honorable James Martin, Vice President for Research, Carolinas HealthCare System Sally Robinson, Community Volunteer
F. William Vandiver, Retired Executive, Bank of America The Honorable Kurt Waldthausen, Honorary Consul, Federal Republic of Germany
The Honorable Melvin Watt, United States Congressman, North Carolina Dr. James H. Woodward, Chancellor Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- Board of Trustees -
Robert J. Glusenkamp, Chair Senior Vice President, Rodgers Builders
Stephanie G. Ansaldo, President The Echo Foundation
Kenneth Levine, Vice Chair Director, Global Retirement Strategies, United Technologies Corporation
Rajnish Bharadwaj, Treasurer Head, Cross Border Governance, Wells Fargo
Dr. Joan F. Lorden, Secretary Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, UNC Charlotte
Ambassador Mark Erwin, Chairman Emeritus President, Erwin Capital
Patricia Blackburn, VP, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Ingersoll Rand
Frank L. Bryant, Partner, Poyner & Spruill, LLP Robert Davies, Owner, Candescence
Dr. Zenobia Edwards, Dean, Metropolitan College, Johnson C. Smith University Dr. Cindy Moss, Director, Global STEM Initiatives, Discovery Education
Kevin Shea, Principal, The North Highland Company Gail Brinn Wilkins, ASID, President, Gail Brinn Wilkins, Inc.