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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #51

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, December 2, 1996

"A Normal Life"

Letter from Burma (No. 51) By Aung San Suu Kyi

	Recently, when a friend asked me how things were with me since the
authorities had taken to barricading off my house periodically, I replied
that things were fine, I was simply carrying on with my normal life.  At
this she burst out laughing.  "Yours in not a normal life, in fact it's the
most abnormal life!"  And I could not help but laugh too.
	I suppose the kind of life I lead must seem very strange to some but it is
a life to which I have become accustomed and it is really no stranger than a
lot of things that go on in Burma today.  Sometimes as we walk around the
garden while the road outside lies quiet, shut off from the rest of the
city, my colleagues and I agree that were we to write about our experiences
in the form if a novel it would be criticized as too far-fetched a story, a
botched Orwellian tale.
	No doubt there are other countries in the world where you would find the
equivalent of the huge billboards brazenly entitled "People's Desire,"
advertising the following sentiments:
	* Oppose those relying on external elements, acting as stooges, holding
negative views
	* Oppose those trying to jeopardize stability of the State and progress of
the nation
	* Oppose foreign nations interfering in internal affairs of the State
	* Crush all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy.
	But I doubt that in other countries you would find just around the corner
from such an unwelcoming, xenophobic proclamations, a gigantic,
double-faced, particularly unattractive version of a traditional boy doll
with puffy white face, staring eyes, a stiff smile and an attache case (that
bit is not traditional) welcoming tourists to Visit Myanmar Year.  Bizarre
is the word that springs to mind.  "Fascist Disneyland," one frequent
visitor to Burma commented.
	There is so much that is beautiful and so much that is wrong in my country.
In the evenings when I look out to the lake from my garden, I can see the
tattered beauty of the casuarinas, the tropical lushness of the coconut
palms, the untidily exotic banana plants and the lushness of the barbed wire
fence along the edge of the shore.  And across the still waters festooned
with dumps of water hyacinth is the mass of a new hotel built with profit
rather than elegance in mind.  As the sun begins to go down the sky lights
up in orange hues.  The Burmese refer to this hour as the time of blazing
clouds and also the time when the ugly turn beautiful because the golden
light casts a flattering glow on most complexions.
	How simple it would be if a mere turn of light could make everything that
was ugly beautiful.  How wonderful it would be if twilight were a time when
we could all lay down the cares of the day and look forward to a tranquil
night of well earned rest.  But in Fascist Disneyland the velvety night is
too often night in the worst sense of the word, a time deprived of light in
more ways than one.  Even in the capital city Rangoon, electricity cuts are
not infrequent and we are suddenly plunged into darkness.  The inability of
the government to supply adequate electric power makes it necessary for many
households to contrive arrangements of their own, linking up a wire to a
neighboring source that they might enjoy a bit of light at night.  The local
authorities turn a blind eye to such arrangements, accepting due
compensation for their discretion.  However, if you happen to be a member of
the NLD, trying to bring light into your household can easily result in a
two-year prison sentence.  The other, and more real, darkness of night in
Fascist Disneyland is that so many political arrests are made during the
hours when all decent people should be resting and allowing others to rest.
	Visitors to my country often speak of the friendliness, the hospitality and
the acme of humor of the Burmese.  Then they ask how it is possible that a
brutal, humorless authoritarian regime could have emerged from such a
people.  A comprehensive answer to that question would involve a whole
thesis but a short answer might be, as one writer has put it, that Burma is
indeed one of those lands of charm and cruelty.  I have found more warmth,
more wholehearted love and more caring concern among my people, as we hope
together, suffer together and struggle together, than anywhere else in the
world.  But those who exude hate and vindictiveness and rave about
annihilating and crushing us are also Burmese, our own people.
	How many can be said to be leading normal lives in a country where there
are such deep divisions of heart and mind, where there is neither freedom
nor security?  When we ask for democracy, all we are asking is that our
people should be allowed to live in tranquility under the rule of law,
protected by institutions which will guarantee our rights, the rights that
will enable us to maintain our human dignity, to heal long festering wounds
and to allow love and courage to flourish.  Is that such a very unreasonable
This article is one a yearlong series of letters.  The Japanese translation
appears in the Mainichi Shimbun the same day, or the previous day in some areas.