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Japanese Daily Helps Suu Kyi's Mass

Subject: Japanese Daily Helps Suu Kyi's Massages

 The Associated Press 

TOKYO, Dec. 27 (Kyodo) -- By: Zaw Win Maung ''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.'' 

Thus concludes a yearlong series of a weekly ''Letter from Burma'' penned by
one of the most celebrated pro-democracy leaders in Asia, Nobel peace
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

For the past year, the Mainichi Daily News, an English-language newspaper in
Japan, and its parent vernacular Mainichi Shimbun have published a weekly
column by the vocal dissenter the Myanmar's ruling military junta has sought
to muffle -- on and off -- over the past seven years. 

In her last letter, published Dec. 9, Suu Kyi looked back on a year marked
by Myanmar's bid to open itself up to the world as well as by political
tension and student unrest. 

''Politics is about people and I have sought to bring out the human face of
our political struggle,'' Suu Kyi wrote in her last open letter as she
described her motive in contributing the series that led to Mainichi Shimbun
winning this year's Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association award
in the editorial division. 

The ''Letter from Burma'' series, an idea born shortly after Suu Kyi was
released in July last year after six years of house arrest, is primarily the
brainchild of one man, Hiroshi Nagai, a former Mainichi foreign
correspondent and now a professor of international relations at Shizuoka
Eiwa College. 

''Many journalists rushed to Myanmar to cover what Aung San Suu Kyi had to
say after the junta unexpectedly freed her after six years of house arrest
but I wanted to know more about the political, social and cultural
background of Myanmar,'' Nagai said. 

Nagai said two months after her release he asked Suu Kyi in Yangon if she
would do a yearlong a series of essays. 

''She showed a very keen interest in my project right from the start. She
was willing to write but she said the one big problem was shortage of time.
She asked me to give her a few days to think and two days later consented to
undertake the weekly column,'' Nagai said. 

Many Japanese journalists are reporting from Myanmar, but the presentation
is cast in terms of ''a fight between the angel and the devil'' and is too
superficial, Nagai said. 

''Japan has a stereotype theory that developing countries like Myanmar need
a strong leadership. As these countries have no traditional democracy and
are economically underdeveloped, the Japanese think economic development
should precede democratization,'' he said. 

''What I wanted to present to the Japanese public was from the Myanmar
people's point of view, not from the Japanese point of view.'' 

Nagai's project has proved a huge success, reaching well beyond Japanese

According to Nagai, news media around the world have picked up Suu Kyi's
letters. At present, more than 10 newspapers are running the ''Letter from
Burma'' series while others are running the articles on a spot basis. 

Nagai said the first foreign media to reproduce the series was the Nation,
an English-language newspaper in Thailand, which began to publish the essays
last spring. Then followed Universal Press Syndicate, a major news syndicate
in the United States. 

A weekly magazine in Thailand has also reproduced the essays in the Thai

Some wire services also picked up the letters, which as Suu Kyi says, in her
final instalment, detail the multifaceted social and economic issues in
Myanmar under the military government. 

The letters are also read on the Internet, where they have been posted by
her sympathizers. 

Suu Kyi's essays may have spread around the world but Nagai said he has no
idea whether they have been reproduced in Myanmar since the letters
sometimes contain blunt criticism of the military junta. 

Nagai said Suu Kyi's manuscripts were sent by facsimile from Yangon but
communications are not always easy. 

The manuscripts were sent by from the fax machine of James Leander Nichols,
a Myanmar citizen, Nagai said. 

Nichols, who served as an honorary consul for Scandinavian countries, died
after being jailed for possession and use of an unregistered facsimile machine. 

Nagai said he is not sure of the extent of the column's impact on overseas
Myanmarese but added he has had inquiries from Myanmar expatriates in Europe
who want to put it into European languages. 

However, judging from the letters from Japanese readers, Nagai said, they
have come to know more about both Suu Kyi and Myanmar. 

A Japanese compilation of the ''Letter from Burma'' series in book form hit
the bookstands on Christmas eve. A Burmese edition will come out in January
while an English edition, arranged by Michael Aris, Suu Kyi's husband, is
expected in early spring.