The Lady Of Burma
Amnesty are presenting in association with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival a play called “The Lady of Burma”. I will paste below the introduction I am presenting before the play which I will confess draws heavily on an article in todays Observer.
Tonight we are going to watch a play about Aung Sann Suu kyi as she enters her thirteenth year under house arrest. This play which has already played successfully at the Edinburgh festival and in the Old Vic theatre in London as well as embarking on a tour can tell her story more poetically than I can. Aung San Suu Kyi is an iconic symbol of Burmese political resistance. However she is far from alone, there are thousands of prisoners of conscience in Burmese prisons; monks and poets, comedians and politicians. Indeed Burma is one of the riskiest places earth to speak out against he government.
Tonight we are free to watch this play, to complain about our government, to log onto the internet and send an email. These freedoms are not enjoyed by the people of Burma and this week the people of Burma will be asked to endorse a new constitution which cements the power of the military junta indefinitely. This referendum far from introducing democracy has developed a constitution devised by policy makers hand picked by the military, it forbids public meetings or lectures to discuss its content and will enshrine the right of the military to remove any civilian government if it is deemed to jeopardise national security and It disenfranchises the countries 400 000 monks.
There is even a clause specifically aimed at Aung San Suu Kyi, which requires any president to have lived continuously in Burma for 20 years, that the presidents spouse and children should not hold foreign nationality. All designed to ensure that Suu Kyi can not stand in an election. There are suggestions that voters will have to put their names on the ballot paper and that failure to vote yes could lead to three years in prison. However even this sham of a referendum is the result of great international pressure on the Burmese military government. This shows that they do respond to pressure.
We cannot allow ourselves to forget what is happening to the people of Burma.
Last September the world looked on as thousands of monks led peaceful protests against a regime where torture, child soldiers and detention without trial are routine..The military junta responded with brutal force and admitted to killing 13 and arresting over 2,000 – although Amnesty International fears the real figures are much higher. But beneath the surface of restored normality monasteries remain eerily empty, monks and civilians have disappeared – many hundreds are believed to be held in detention – and night-time arrests continue. Against this backdrop of continuing human rights violations, this brutal regime continues to benefit from a ready supply of arms. It has received armoured personnel carriers from Ukraine, munitions from India and military aircraft from the likes of Russia and China.
Tonight you will be asked to take action to free Aung San Suu Kyi, please fill out the leaflet on your seat and hand it to a volunteer at the end or you can join Amnesty and help to campaign to free prisoners of conscience and against human rights abuses in Burma and in the rest of the world.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.