(1)Athe Lady Walks Free Again (2)A Lady Called Hope (3)The Ugly Briton

The Lady Walks Free Again―Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
By Hannah Beech
Aung San Suu Kyi is relaeased from house arrest to a Burma that, while still in the generals' grip, is changing fast. To get things done, she will have to learn how to be more than an icon of democracy.
In a tragic place scented by tropical blooms, it was the simplest of gestures. On Nov. 13, as Aung San Suu Kyi peered out of the crumbling villa complex where she has been confined for much of the past two decades, one of the thousands of well-wishers gathered to mark her moment of freedom handed her a nosegay of flowers. Smiling, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate received the fragrant benediction and tucked the blossoms in her hair. "We haven't seen each other for so long. I have so much to tell you," Suu Kyi said to her supporters, with an understatement that belied the seven years of house arrest she had endured in her most recent stint at the hands of Burma's military regime. "We have a lot of things to do." (See pictures of Burma reacting to Aung San Suu Kyi's release.)

Just a day later, Suu Kyi dived right back into the political fray. In a speech at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), her now banned political party, Suu Kyi appealed to the world and her people to keep fighting for political reform. A week earlier, Burma had held its first national elections in two decades, an exercise that the NLD boycotted and that has been discredited by the suspiciously high margin of victory for the ruling junta's proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). "My message is not for the Western nations in particular, and my message is not for those parties that took part in the election," she said on Nov. 14, as thousands of fans withstood the beating noon sun to hear her. "It is for all those that are interested in seeing democracy in Burma. For all of us, there are times when we need help, and this is a time for Burma when we need help." (See pictures of battles for Burmese democracy.)

In a world that struggles to find heroes, Suu Kyi stands as one of the few enduring symbols of moral courage. Part of that endurance is courtesy of one of the age's most repressive regimes, which has tried for 21 years to silence its most compelling — and graceful — opponent. For it matters, one must admit, that Suu Kyi is beautiful, a 65-year-old sylph who wears jasmine in her hair. But beyond her delicate features, it is Suu Kyi's fortitude — a stalk of bamboo swaying in the winds yet never snapping — that has inspired millions and until Nov. 13 made her the world's most famous political prisoner. (There are still, however, more than 2,100 other Burmese languishing in jail for speaking out against the government.) Upon her release, U.S. President Barack Obama called Suu Kyi "a hero of mine," adding, "whether Aung San Suu Kyi is living in the prison of her house or the prison of her country does not change the fact that she, and the political opposition she represents, has been systematically silenced, incarcerated and deprived of any opportunity to engage in political processes that could change Burma."

Obama was right to stress that Suu Kyi's release has not altered the fundamentals of power in her homeland. Unlike the vaunted company she keeps in the world's imagination — Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Corazon Aquino — Suu Kyi has not been able to free Burma from the iron grip of dictatorship. During the years she was the imprisoned face of the Burmese democracy movement, the generals' power only increased. Now that she walks free, the world rejoices. But the prospects for political change in Burma are still bleak. "I'm afraid there will be no people power in Burma, only people's funerals," says Burmese author Kyaw Win, referring to previous democracy movements, one in 1988 and another just three years ago in 2007 — both of which ended with protesters being gunned down. (See the top 10 political prisoners.)

Still, if anyone is brave enough to give a voice to some of the most oppressed people on earth, it is the woman who jokes that she is known by her foreign fans as "the lady with the unpronounceable name." (For the record, it's pronounced Awn Sahn Sue Chee.) The question now is whether she can translate the lofty principles she has so eloquently articulated into reality. In any country, making the transition from an icon of democracy to a player of hard-boiled politics is difficult enough; consider, for example, the mixed legacy of Poland's Lech Walesa, a lion of resistance to communist rule but a disappointing President. Figureheads have to come down to earth, negotiating not just with those they have stood against but often with those who fought while their leaders were away. And Suu Kyi must complete this evolution in a place where the generals still rule, where she has twice been released and twice been rearrested for her unyielding political stand. "The people have pinned so many hopes on her," says Aung Zaw, a Burmese former student activist who now runs an exile media organization from neighboring Thailand. "But it's not like we will have democracy overnight. These are brutal military guys, and it's not fair to depend just on her."

< House Arrest >
The daughter of independence hero General Aung San, who was assassinated when she was just 2 years old, Suu Kyi lived much of her early life abroad. But she returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her sick mother, and in late August that year, she ended up on a stage in front of half a million pro-democracy protesters with whom she shared her Buddhist philosophy of nonviolence. Read "Free Again, Can 'The Lady' Still Rally Burma's Opposition?"

A month later, the military killed hundreds of demonstrators. Suu Kyi helped found the NLD in the aftermath of the bloodshed, and by 1990 her moral authority was such that her party overwhelmingly won national elections. But the generals, who have ruled Burma since a 1962 coup and call the country Myanmar, ignored the results. The woman who should have been Burma's Prime Minister was locked up, spending a total of 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. In 1999 she passed up the chance to visit her dying British husband lest the generals not allow her to return home. Suu Kyi's most recent stint of house arrest in Rangoon, Burma's largest city, came after an army-backed mob attacked her supporters in the town of Depayin, killing dozens. Although that sentence was set to expire last year, it was extended after an American Vietnam War veteran who said he was on a mission from God swam unannounced to her lakeside home, contravening the conditions of her confinement.

Suu Kyi has not left Burma for more than 20 years, but the country into which she has been released is very different from the place she last properly saw in 2003. True, it is still one of the poorest countries on earth, with nearly one-third of its citizens living below the poverty line because of the regime's cockamamie economic policies. (In the most egregious example, a military leader once decided to denominate the currency in multiples of 9 because he thought the digit lucky.) But Burma today is no longer a geopolitical backwater. With a population of some 50 million, and wedged between Asia's two emerging giants, China and India, the country is of vital strategic value as foreign nations scramble for its rich resources, including oil, minerals and natural gas. Beginning in the 1990s, in response to the regime's murderous rule, many Western governments imposed economic sanctions on Burma. The financial restrictions were tightened after the bloodshed of 2007. But over the past few years, an influx of investment from Asian countries, particularly China, has poured money into the pockets of the top brass, blunting the effect of the economic sanctions, which Suu Kyi has supported. (See pictures of young Burmese seeking fresh ways to bring about change.)

The political landscape, too, has shifted. Although Suu Kyi is still revered, as proven by the crowds that have thronged her since her release, the political opposition that once coalesced around her has begun to fracture. In the run-up to the Nov. 7 elections, the NLD, at Suu Kyi's request, chose to boycott a poll that was clearly stacked in the generals' favor — down to a constitutional clause that precludes anyone ever married to a foreigner from holding high public office. But a breakaway faction called the National Democratic Force (NDF) appeared to question Suu Kyi's uncompromising stance and did contend in the elections, along with dozens of other opposition parties, many of which represent Burma's patchwork of ethnic minorities. Because of rampant vote rigging, the opposition won fewer parliamentary seats than it probably should have. The NDF, for instance, captured only 16 of the 163 seats it contested, while the military's USDP claimed more than 80% of the vote. But even with just a small fraction of parliament, a legal democratic opposition now exists that is distinct from Suu Kyi and her NLD. "Of course, we are very much happy to hear about [Suu Kyi's] release," says Khin Maung Swe, a leader of the NDF. "But I don't think she should take a formal political position in the NLD. She should be a sort of statesman, a democratic icon for Myanmar who brings all sides together for national reconciliation."

Even if Suu Kyi assumes no official political role, the expectations placed on her narrow shoulders are immense. It is one thing to be a famous prisoner of conscience; it is quite another to maneuver through a political minefield where the enemy is a clutch of battle-hardened, thuggish generals. To survive, Suu Kyi must balance the political art of compromise with the unswerving commitment to democracy that has made her such an inspiration. All the while, she must not overly antagonize the military regime, which has shown that it can manufacture any trifling reason to lock her up. "She has her democratic ideals, and the Burmese people love her because of this," says former activist Aung Zaw. "But this time, she must realistically accept the rule of the military and figure out a way to coexist, because the military is not ready to go back to the barracks." (Read "Can the Young Bring Change to Burma?")

So far, Suu Kyi has taken a relatively conciliatory tone. At NLD headquarters, she spoke of possibly reconsidering her support for Western sanctions, which isolate and hurt normal Burmese as well as their leaders. Only Suu Kyi has the moral authority to persuade foreign leaders to lift financial restrictions on Burma, but a resumption of trade would be an economic boon for the generals. She has also been careful not to criticize the top brass personally and called for political dialogue with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe. "Others of us, we have bitterness against military rule," says Win Tin, an NLD elder who was jailed for 19 years. "But she is very kind to them because her father was the founder of the Burmese army. She can also talk to the generals directly and not be branded as a traitor by the Burmese people."

But if the generals don't bother replying to Suu Kyi's offer to talk, what can she do except make speeches into the wind? With the elections done and Asian investment flowing in, the military regime is now at its strongest in years. The generals' confidence may explain why they decided to release Suu Kyi. "Everyone's fear is that she offers national-reconciliation talks with the generals, and they don't respond," says a Western diplomat in Rangoon. "Then she gets frustrated, ups the ante and ends up getting arrested again because she's crossed some invisible line." Read "Inside Burma's War."

An alternative may be for the Lady, as she is affectionately known in Burma, to focus her energy on social-welfare issues instead of the cut and thrust of politics. That could disappoint many of her followers; the NLD, banned or not, seems determined to remain a political force. "We consider ourselves a legitimate political party, even if the government considers us null and void," says Win Tin. Suu Kyi has already begun pushing for the NLD to be reinstated as a legal entity.

The trouble is, politics has a way of disappointing Burma. During the recent campaign season, political candidates and NLD boycotters alike talked and talked, but they rarely touched on actual policies to fix Burma's woes. Instead, some members of Burma's intellectual elite focused on personal political feuds, some of which date back generations. Yet in Burma today, 10% of children don't live to be 5, and half never finish school. Health care and education spending are among the lowest in the world. "Since the early 20th century in Burma, one could argue that the problem hasn't been too little politics, but too much," says Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian. "There has been an enormous focus on high-level politics and far too little on the specifics of government, like health care or education or the economy itself." (See pictures the two Burmas.)

< The Disunited Nation >
It would not be easy to improve the life chances of Burma's people if their leaders were all competent saints. But Burma faces another profound complication as it tries to move forward: the fact that it is not a truly unified nation at all. Ethnic minorities — the Shan, the Karen, the Kachin, the Mon, the Rakhine and the Chin, among many others — make up more than 40% of the population. Ever since the British quit their colony in 1948, the country has been riven by ethnic conflict in its vast borderlands. The generals who now rule Burma forced a sort of unity on the country, but at a terrible cost to its ethnic peoples. Burmese soldiers regularly use rape as a weapon against ethnic women, and forced labor is common. An estimated 2 million people are internally displaced, largely because of ethnic fighting and forced relocations. Although most of Burma's lucrative natural resources are located in ethnic-minority areas, the people living there get little profit from this bounty. Ethnically, the junta is entirely Bamar (also known as Burman), and minorities are barred from most civil service jobs as well as the upper echelons of the military.

Back in 1947, in a historic agreement signed in the town of Panglong, Suu Kyi's father Aung San promised ethnic minorities a high level of autonomy in the future Union of Burma. But he was killed months later by a political rival, and subsequent governments failed to live up to Aung San's pledge. Since her latest release, Suu Kyi has called for a "second Panglong," a plea that had special resonance as fighting between ethnic Karen rebels and the Burmese military flared this month on the Thailand-Burma border. But once more, the limits of Suu Kyi's power come in to play: What leverage does she have to force the junta into meeting the demands of an array of disaffected rebel armies? Even though Suu Kyi may be one of the few Bamar that ethnic groups trust, they are under no illusions about their place in a unified Burma. "Let's say the Lady forms a government," says a senior commander of the Kachin ethnic group. "Will she love us as she loves [the Bamar] people? We will always be second-class citizens." (See how the Burmese junta is grooming a new generation to perpetuate its hold on power.)

For now, after catching up on business in Rangoon, Suu Kyi says she wants to roam the country to hear the voices of all who live in it, whatever their ethnicity. Such travels will give her time to acquaint herself with a changed nation. (Suu Kyi is still getting the hang of smart phones, having first used one the day of her release.) A listening tour will also be a test of strength, for both Suu Kyi and the generals. The crowds that will undoubtedly flock to her will show just how beloved she is — and how much of an influence she may still be. Every step she takes will be scrutinized by a regime that may have underestimated her enduring popularity but that won't hesitate to jail her again if it feels she challenges its authority. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev set his face against the use of violence to preserve Soviet power in Eastern Europe. There is no sign of latter-day Gorbachevs in Burma.

That means there is a looming potential for real danger. Besides the Depayin attack, Suu Kyi and her supporters have twice before been targeted by thugs associated with the military. Assassination claimed Suu Kyi's father; its specter stalks her too. Two decades ago, in her famous "Freedom from Fear" speech, Suu Kyi said, "It is not power that corrupts but fear ... Fearlessness may be a gift, but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions." For more than 20 years, Suu Kyi has embodied this purest form of bravery. Now the challenge will be to turn it into a force for real change.

The Lady Walks Free Again






< 自宅軟禁 >



政治状況も変化した。スーチーが今も敬愛されていることは、解放後に民衆が彼女の元へと押しかけたことでもわかるが、かつては彼女の下で結束していた政治的反対派に亀裂が生じ始めている。11月7日の選挙直前に、NLDはスーチーの呼びかけに応えて、明らかに将校たちに有利に仕組まれた不正選挙(何と「外国人と結婚したものは高位の公職につくことができない」という憲法条項まであるのだ)のボイコットを決定した。しかし国民民主勢力(NDF) と命名された分派は、スーチーの非妥協的な姿勢に疑問を呈し、多くは少数民族の寄せ集めの代表である何十という反対派とともに、選挙に立候補した。八百長を使った見境のない集票策動で、反対派は本来占められたはずの議席数よりも少ない数しか獲得できなかった。例えばNDFは、争った163議席のうち16議席しか獲得できず、軍部のUSDPは投票数の80%以上を獲得したと宣言した。たとえ議会のごく一部の議席であっても、今やスーチーや彼女の属するNLDとは一線を画する合法的な民主的反対党が存在する。「勿論、私たちはスーチーさんの解放を喜んでいます」とNDFの指導者キン・マウン・スウィは言う。「しかし、彼女はNLD内の公式の政治的地位につくべきではないと思います。国民的和解のための、すべての勢力を一つにするミャンマーの民主的シンボル、そんな指導的政治家になるべきです」







< 分裂国家 >




A Lady Called Hope―Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
By Wang Dan
A Chinese dissident tells what Aung San Suu Kyi's long fight against tyranny means for him.
In my struggle for democracy in China, Aung San Suu Kyi has twice inspired me profoundly. The first time was in 2003. I was living in the U.S., where I was granted asylum after spending a total of nearly seven years in Chinese jails for my role as a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests in Beijing. Those demonstrations were crushed by the Chinese military, and hundreds of innocent people were killed. One year earlier, something similar had happened in Burma: soldiers had violently put down peaceful rallies for democracy by students and monks. There too, many died, but it was then that the world — and I — awakened to the moral power of Aung San Suu Kyi.

When in the U.S., I organized various campaigns to promote democracy in China, but I was also preoccupied with the heavy school workload at Harvard University, where I was studying the history of China and Taiwan. During this period in my life, I became confused about my ideals. As China's economy grew, people's passion for democracy seemed to wane — the drive for liberalization was losing momentum. Both the future of China and my own personal future seemed uncertain to me. Then I came across one of Suu Kyi's articles. Her main point was that perseverance — a characteristic she has repeatedly displayed — is the most important asset for a protest movement. The essay triggered such shock in me — it was as if it opened a window to a dark room and let in a gust of fresh air when I was on the verge of suffocation. Suu Kyi's words recharged a belief I had long held but was temporarily questioning: that democracy is the best guarantee of a more equitable and a more durable prosperity. (See pictures of "Remembering Tiananmen Square.")

If a protest movement is sustained in the face of a formidable antidemocracy apparatus, then its great advantage becomes simply its longevity, its ability to outlast oppression. The perennial battle between tyranny and freedom depends on who can survive till the end, and history has shown that democracy often prevails.

The second time I have drawn inspiration from Suu Kyi is now, with her release from house arrest. After 21 years in and out of detention, Suu Kyi has become a symbol to those of us fighting for human rights against authoritarian regimes. She represents a force that seems weak on first appearance but which, in fact, is truly tremendous. Even when such a delicate woman is pitted against the might of Burma's junta, what we see is not a gross mismatch but an almost equal confrontation — because Suu Kyi is more than just an individual, and the junta is less than the guns of the soldiers it commands. The struggle between Suu Kyi and the junta is like a live historical drama in which the theme is the conflict between conviction and violence. Suu Kyi's release is the victory of conviction. (See a history of dissent in Burma.)

That victory is a great encouragement to all other human-rights advocates fighting for their convictions, especially Chinese dissidents. Her release offers hope for Liu Xiaobo, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner. For his efforts to promote peaceful political change, Liu now languishes in a Chinese prison, serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power." True, Liu wants reform, but that's something even China's leaders have mentioned — and he wants it gradually and nonviolently. The accusation against him is horribly wrong.

Suu Kyi's release also symbolizes a different kind of victory, which is that persistent pressure from abroad will eventually bear results. The international community is often baffled by the conundrum between maintaining economic ties with authoritarian countries and exerting pressure on human rights. Burma and China set two different examples. While most of the free world imposes sanctions on Burma or berates it, China has been getting a pass on human rights because of its growing economic power. The upshot is that though both are Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Suu Kyi is out, and Liu is still in prison. To be sure, Suu Kyi can be rearrested, as she has been before. But for now, the junta — perhaps it is feeling confident and secure, perhaps it wants some international goodwill — has made a concession. (Read "Free Again, Can "The Lady" Still Rally Burma's Opposition?")

The rulers in Beijing are in no mood for concessions, not least because they are being allowed to get away with being harsh. Yet, real progress in human rights cannot be achieved without active and constant pressure, whether on Burma or on China. Any fantasies about advancing democratic reforms within a dictatorship through coordination and encouragement will be, to quote a Chinese saying, the equivalent of trying to catch a fish by climbing a tree. That would not do Aung San Suu Kyi justice.

A Lady Called Hope







The Ugly Briton―Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
By Shashi Tharoor
A scholarly account of Churchill's role in the Bengal famine leaves his reputation in tatters.
Few statesmen of the 20th century have reputations as outsize as Winston Churchill's. And yet his assiduously self-promoted image as what the author Harold Evans called "the British Lionheart on the ramparts of civilization" rests primarily on his World War II rhetoric, rather than his actions as the head of a government that ruled the biggest empire the world has ever known. Madhusree Mukerjee's new book, Churchill's Secret War, reveals a side of Churchill largely ignored in the West and considerably tarnishes his heroic sheen.

In 1943, some 3 million brown-skinned subjects of the Raj died in the Bengal famine, one of history's worst. Mukerjee delves into official documents and oral accounts of survivors to paint a horrifying portrait of how Churchill, as part of the Western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia. And he did so with a churlishness that cannot be excused on grounds of policy: Churchill's only response to a telegram from the government in Delhi about people perishing in the famine was to ask why Gandhi hadn't died yet. (See the top 10 weird government secrets.)

British imperialism had long justified itself with the pretense that it was conducted for the benefit of the governed. Churchill's conduct in the summer and fall of 1943 gave the lie to this myth. "I hate Indians," he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. "They are a beastly people with a beastly religion." The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for "breeding like rabbits."

As Mukerjee's accounts demonstrate, some of India's grain was also exported to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to meet needs there, even though the island wasn't experiencing the same hardship; Australian wheat sailed past Indian cities (where the bodies of those who had died of starvation littered the streets) to depots in the Mediterranean and the Balkans; and offers of American and Canadian food aid were turned down. India was not permitted to use its own sterling reserves, or indeed its own ships, to import food. And because the British government paid inflated prices in the open market to ensure supplies, grain became unaffordable for ordinary Indians. Lord Wavell, appointed Viceroy of India that fateful year, considered the Churchill government's attitude to India "negligent, hostile and contemptuous." (See pictures of the Red Cross during the war.)

Mukerjee's prose is all the more devastating because she refuses to voice the outrage most readers will feel on reading her exhaustively researched, footnoted facts. The way in which Britain's wartime financial arrangements and requisitioning of Indian supplies laid the ground for famine; the exchanges between the essentially decent Amery and the bumptious Churchill; the racism of Churchill's odious aide, paymaster general Lord Cherwell, who denied India famine relief and recommended most of the logistical decisions that were to cost so many lives — all are described in a compelling narrative.

Churchill said that history would judge him kindly because he intended to write it himself. The self-serving but elegant volumes he authored on the war led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to bestow him an award for peace, to give him, astonishingly, the Nobel Prize for Literature — an unwitting tribute to the fictional qualities inherent in Churchill's self-justifying embellishments. Mukerjee's book depicts a truth more awful than any fiction.

The Ugly Briton






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