Friday, June 19, 2009

Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi

Today is Burmese Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th birthday, which she is spending in prison. Last month, she was taken from her home, where she had been under house arrest off and on over the past two decades, and imprisoned because of an odd incident where an American man swam to her residence and tried to meet with her. The military junta of Myanmar claimed this incident violated the terms of her house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma. She has steadfastly urged nonviolent resistance to the dictatorial military junta in Myanmar. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Suu Kyi is included on the "peace wheel of fortune" that our Nonmilitary Options group has used in the high schools this past year. Of all the students who tried out the wheel, only one knew who she was, because he had written a report about her (and, I must say, he was a Quaker). We realized Suu Kyi would be unknown to most students, but thought there would be some recognition because of the massive nonviolent marches by the Burmese monks in the fall of '07. Not so. We hope we increased her name recognition even a little. My Nonmilitary Options colleague, Hart, had laminated a newspaper photo from '07 showing a line of robed, unarmed monks facing a line of black-clad heavily armed soldiers. He showed it to students at our table, asking them, "who looks more afraid?"

There is greater attention on Burma from other parts of the world than from the US. I think world attention and Aung San Suu Kyi's insistence on nonviolence is what has preserved her life, so I believe more could be done in the US to highlight the oppression in Burma through the media and through US diplomatic pressure.

Obviously, there are some human rights violations in the world that the US is more willing to address than others. It's important to ask why. In this case, I expect the reasons mostly involve US relations with China. When US debt to China is so high and keeps growing, there become certain issues to which the US is willing to turn a blind eye.

In honor of Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, there are events being held today around the world. If the US media helped publicize these as they are the expressions for democratic reform in Iran, the regime in Myanmar might have to pay attention.

Great reforms could be achieved in Burma/Myanmar. After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela emerged to become South Africa's first black president. Economic and diplomatic pressure from around the world made a difference, as did Mandela's, like Suu Kyi's, continued adherence to nonviolent resistance.
photo of Aung San Suu Kyi from wikipedia

No comments: