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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #52

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, December 9, 1996

"Year End"

Letter from Burma (No. 52) By Aung San Suu Kyi

	This is the last of the weekly Letter from Burma series that began in
November 1995 and I would like to start it on a note of gratitude.  The
intervening 12 months since my first letter have been most eventful.  There
were weeks when so much was happening I could not complete my letter by the
agreed deadline.  But the Mainichi Shimbun did not once reproach me for my
failure to deliver on time; instead, Mr. Hiroshi Nagai and other members of
the staff demonstrated a fine understanding of the difficulties with which I
had to contend.  For this understanding, and for the opportunity afforded me
to bring the Burmese situation to the attention of the world outside Burma,
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the newspaper.
	As one deeply involved in the movement for democracy in Burma, it was
always my intention to concentrate on the political aspect of life in the
country.  However, politics is about people and I have sought to bring out
the human face of our political struggle.  I have written of the effect on
ordinary people of such official requirements as the compulsory reporting of
overnight visitors to the authorities concerned.  I have discussed what
inflation means at the common, everyday level of an ordinary breakfast.  I
have written about friends and colleagues, about the activities of my party,
the National League for Democracy, and about the trials, in more than one
sense of the word, of political prisoners.  I have described traditional
festivals and Buddhist ceremonies which are an integral part of life in
Burma.  I have tried to present politics as multifaceted and indissolubly
linked to social and economic issues.
	In recent months, I have had to focus increasingly on the challenges the
NLD had to face as persecution of its members and supporters reached new
heights.  The political climate has been very volatile since the end of May
when the government took hundreds of NLD members of Parliament, elected in
1990 but never allowed to exercise their function as representatives of the
people, into temporary detention.  (There were some whose "temporary
detention for questioning," as the authorities put it, were converted into
long prison sentences.)  One does not quite know what is going to happen
from one day to the next but one can predict that every time the NLD plans a
major party activity the government is bound to overreact.
	It is not just the activities of our own party that bring down the heavy
attention of the authorities upon us.  The activities of others also provide
them with an excuse for hampering our work.  Toward the end of October,
students of the Rangoon Institute of Technology staged demonstrations
against the way in which some of their numbers had been handled by the
municipal police during an incident in a restaurant.  As a result, the road
to my house was blocked off for the third time within a month (the first two
blockades were related to NLD activities) and U Kyi Maung, one of our deputy
chairmen, was taken in for questioning by the military intelligence.  A
number of young men who were known to be our staunch supporters were also
taken into detention for some days and subjected to severe interrogation.
	We have now come to expect that the road to my house would be blocked off
late on Friday evening or early on Saturday morning to prevent our weekend
public rallies from taking place.  The blockade is lifted either on Sunday
night or Monday morning or Tuesday, as the spirit moves the authorities.  On
the evening of Sunday, Dec. 1, the road was unblocked and it seemed as
though the scene was set for a normal week.  But as I observed in one of my
letters, "normal" is not a very appropriate world for describing what goes
on in Burma today.  When Tuesday morning dawned all seemed as usual, but
before 7 a.m. the road had been blocked off once again.  And I was prevented
from leaving my house.  What was it all about?  There had been another
demonstration led by the students of the Rangoon Institute of Technology.
We heard that they were later joined by students from the Rangoon Arts and
Science University.  Immediately the authorities seemed bent on finding some
way of linking this development to the NLD.
	The students of Rangoon University established a tradition of social
awareness and political activism during the colonial days when they were
prominent in the independence movement.  The years of authoritarian rule
blunted the political awareness of our young people but did not kill the
instincts that lead them to seek justice and freedom.  If there is student
discontent, the authorities should seek to redress the ills that lie at the
root of this discontent: the protests of the young often reflect the general
malaise of their society.
	The end of the year is a time for assessing past events and preparing for
the future.  It is a time for us to decide that we should resolve the
problems of our country through political rather than military means.


"Letter from Burma," which has been carried by the Mainichi Daily News in
English and the Mainichi Shimbun in Japanese, will be compiled and published
as books in the near future.

The original English-language version is scheduled to be published by
Penguin Books next spring.  The Japanese translation will be published by
the Mainichi Shimbun on Dec. 24.


As some Burmanet subscribers already know, Daw Suu's "Letter from Burma"
series has been translated into Burmese by Kyaw Kyaw Soe, an activist in
Tokyo, and published in Voice of Burma, a weekly digest of Burmese news in
the Burmese language.  Kyaw Kyaw Soe's translations will also be compiled in
a book to be published by Voice of Burma Group later this month.  Stay tuned
for details.