Newly freed Suu Kyi gets down to work

Burma’s newly freed democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, returned to work for the first time in years on Monday as she knuckled down to the task of rebuilding her weakened party.

A smiling Suu Kyi arrived at her party’s headquarters in Rangoon where she was due to meet senior regional members of her National League for Democracy (NLD), as dozens of plain-clothed policemen were seen near the building.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest on Saturday, less than a week after a controversial election that cemented the junta’s decades-long grip on power but was widely criticised by democracy activists and Western leaders as a sham.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been locked up by Burma’s regime for 15 of the past 21 years, gave her first political speech in seven years on Sunday, appealing to thousands of her jubilant supporters for unity.

She also told reporters she was willing to meet junta chief Than Shwe and talk through their differences.


“We have asked since the beginning for dialogue. She is always ready for dialogue,” Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday.

When asked whether a letter would be sent to Than Shwe to request a meeting, he said: “I don’t know.”

Crumbling lakeside mansion
After having only limited contact with the outside world for most of the past two decades, Suu Kyi’s telephone line at her crumbling lakeside mansion will be restored “soon”, an unnamed Burma official told AFP.

Nyan Win said the mother-of-two is also hoping that her youngest son, Kim Aris, will be able travel to Rangoon and join her on a visit to Shwedagon temple, the site of Suu Kyi’s first political speech in 1988.

Kim Aris, who lives in Britain, is currently in the Thai capital trying to arrange a visa to Burma. He spoke to his mother by telephone shortly after her release.

On the political front, attention is now focused on whether Suu Kyi can unite the country’s deeply divided opposition and bring change to the impoverished nation.

“I want to work with all democratic forces,” she told her supporters on Sunday, saying she wanted to “hear the voice of the people” before deciding her course of action.

The daughter of the nation’s assassinated independence hero carries a weight of expectations among her followers for a better future after almost half a century of military dictatorship.

New air of optimism
There was a new air of optimism on the streets of Rangoon but some observers have warned that the dissident is no “miracle worker”.

“She has always voluntarily tested the military authorities, has always wanted to push the red line drawn by the regime,” said Renaud Egreteau, a Burma expert at the University of Hong Kong.

But with a powerful junta watching her every move, the situation “might make her avoid a direct confrontation for the time being”, he added.

Suu Kyi said in a BBC interview that an NLD committee would investigate all complaints about the November 7 poll, after opposition parties complained of cheating and voter intimidation by the regime-backed party.

“From what I have heard there are many many questions about the fairness of the election and there are many many allegations of vote-rigging and so on,” she said.

Suu Kyi’s party boycotted the vote, a decision that deeply split the opposition. Some former members of her party left to stand in the poll, prompting accusations of betrayal from some of her closest associates.

The opposition leader also appeared to soften her stance on the international sanctions that have isolated Burma, saying she wants to “talk to all the people concerned”.

Suu Kyi swept her party to victory in a 1990 election, but it was never allowed to take power.

Her struggle for her country has come at a high personal cost: her British husband died in 1999, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the junta refused him a visa to see his wife.

She has never met her grandchildren. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Guinea’s choice will determine its future for generations

We need the eyes and ears of the international community to be alert to assaults on democracy as we run up to the election on 18 October

We should not ignore Guinea’s constitutional coup

Citizens have for a year protested against the president seeking a third term in office despite a two-term limit. Many have been killed — and 90 more people died in this week’s crackdown

Why would anyone vote for Trump?

COMMENT: For this gay, white soldier there simply isn’t a good enough challenger to knock him off his perch

The African Union’s (un)official statement on the US elections

The United States has never been shy to pass judgment on African elections. What does it look like when Africa passes judgment on America’s chaotic vote?

Why we must fight to secure places for more women and young people in politics

Too often, governments talk the talk on gender equality, but fail to walk the walk

This is how Lungu is planning to rig Zambia’s 2021 general election

The president is trying to amend the Constitution and create a new voters’ roll in a bid to stay in power
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday