Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi?

This Sunday, is Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday. She will be 66. I wonder how she will choose to spend it. Having spent 15 of her last 20 years under house arrest in Rangoon, one might imagine this would be a time for celebration. This, after all, is the first birthday for a long time that she can decide on the guest list and location. Her release and ability to speak publically is an improvement. See her video message sent to Amnesty International UK, for our own birthday, two weeks ago. 

There is a current prevailing assumption that things are on the up in Burma. Last year’s election, the first in 20 years, saw a new leader and an elected government put in place. Party time, surely?  

Well, no. As Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, the daughter of Ko Mya Aye, one of Burma’s Generation 88 student leaders who is currently serving a 65-year jail sentence for his part in the 2007 protests, will set out in a comment piece on the Guardian and Observer’s Comment is Free on Sunday, the fact that some people have that impression, is good news for Burma’s new dictator, Thein Sein, but not for the people of Burma. 

Whilst there is a new government, they are merely the old generals, without their uniforms on. Same wolves, new clothing. Over  2,000 political prisoners still remain in Burma, in horrific conditions, see this press release on the dog cages used as a punishment. Meanwhile violent attacks against minority ethnic groups are on the increase, and the people of Burma continue to live under the threat of violent repercussion for voicing any opposition to the government.  

Birthdays are a time for reflection and for resolutions. I suspect I could guess at Aung San Suu Kyi’s wish- that all political prisoners be free, not just physically, but free to speak, vote, meet and act as they wish. On our 50th, Aung San Suu Kyi looked forward to the day that Amnesty was no longer needed, in this reply from our Global Leadership Team, including Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty and UK Director Kate Allen, we look forward to the day that the military dictatorship no longer grips the people of Burma. 

If the bad news is Burma still needs an iconic and defiant opposition leader, the good news is Aung San Suu Kyi, is going strong.    

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