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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #49

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, November 18, 1996

"Operation Anarchy"

Letter from Burma (No. 49) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	For some time I have been thinking that I should perhaps, for a change,
write a letter about Burmese autumn festivals and flowers, turning my mind
from political to cultural and aesthetic interests.  But it would not feel
right to be quoting verses about scented lotuses under pale strands of
moonlight when the political scene is so very unpoetic.  So I have to set
aside thoughts of the beauty of the dying year and once again focus
attention on the current situation in the country.
	When I wrote some time ago that life was not dull for dissidents in Burma I
did not realize just what an understatement I was making.  Something always
seems to be cropping up to keep the adrenaline flowing strongly in the NLD
(National League for Democracy) system.  When we completed our series of
meetings at the end of last month, we thought we were in for a period of
humdrum administrative work aimed at implementing the resolutions of the
meetings.  A bit of routine dullness, we thought .... Such a thought was, of
course, tempting fate.
	Saturday, Nov. 9.  The date should have told us something.  There are those
who take numerology very seriously and the importance that the authorities
in Burma put on the number 9 has become something of a joke, albeit a bad
one.  The previous weekend, our supporters who had, very peacefully, come as
close to my blocked off road as possible to try to hear me speak had been
subjected to harassment by thugs organized by the Union Solidarity and
Development Association (USDA) and by members of the security forces.  U Kyi
Maung, U Tin U and I therefore decided that on Saturday the ninth we would
leave my barricaded road to meet those who had gathered some distance away
to demonstrate their support for our cause.
	It had been arranged that I would meet U Tin U and U Kyi Maung at the
latter's house.  I was in a closed car with dark windows to keep out strong
sunlight and prying eyes.  A blue car nearby, which held my military
intelligence (MI) security personnel, led the way and we were followed by a
blue open-back van carrying some NLD members and young men from our house
and by a black police car.  We stayed for about a quarter-of-an-hour at U
Kyi Maung's house, then set off for the place where we knew our supporters
would be gathered. This time, the blue open-back van was at the head of our
motorcade, my car came next, then U Tin U's car which carried both him and U
Kyi Maung, then followed the blue MI car and the police car.
	U Kyi Maung's house is in a lane off the main road.  When we had entered
the lane 15 minutes previously, there had been just a few uniformed members
of the security forces and a few people in civilian clothes lounging around
the place.  But as our cars swung out on the road, a crowd of people
converged on us from both sides.  The blue van slipped through unscathed but
the mob started attacking our car with stones, iron bars and other lethal
instruments under the instructions of a man who had looked in through the
front windshield to check who was inside.  In an instant the back windshield
had shattered but fortunately the sunscreen film held the pieces together
and prevented splinters from scattering over us.  There were also two big
gashes, probably the result of a flailing iron bar.  We continued driving
and the whole episode was behind us within a matter of seconds.  Later we
discovered that U Tin U's car had lost all the glass in both rear windows
and the rear windshield.  The MI escort car also had all its glass shattered
and the back windshield of the police car was in a state comparable to the
one in my car.
	The most striking feature of the whole episode was that it had taken place
within an area which had been cordoned off by members of the security
forces, who stood by doing nothing to prevent the attacks.  Neither did they
make any attempt to arrest the perpetrators of the violence.  On the
contrary, after our cars had driven away, the mob settled down across the
road and remained there for several hours under the - one imagines -
benevolent eyes of the security personnel.
	Where had this mob appeared from?  They were members of the USDA, who had
been brought in from the suburbs and satellite townships of Rangoon early in
the morning.  They were positioned in large groups within the area around my
house, which was closed off from the general public to prevent our weekend
rallies from taking place.
	The attitude of the authorities with regard to the incident is telling.
Although there has been an announcement to the effect that an inquiry would
be made into the matter, we are not aware that there have been any moves to
take action against the thugs who must be well known to the members of the
security forces who had watched them commit their acts of vandalism with
perfect equanimity.  This is in glaring contrast to the zeal with which
supporters of the NLD are arrested and condemned to substantial prison
sentences for trivial matters.  What price law and order in a country where
injustice and anarchy are condoned by those who hold official responsibility
for protecting the citizens from acts of violence?

* * * * * * * *

(This article is one of a yearlong series of letters.  The Japanese
translation appears in the Mainichi Shimbun the some day, or the previous
day in some areas.)