May 27, 2008
Mae Sot is a bustling border town a 7- hour bus ride out of Bangkok. As Dharamsala is to the Tibetans in India, so likewise is Mae Sot the center, or even hotbed, of Burmese-in-exile in Thailand. Besides massive refugee camps, there are many migrant workers plus legal and illegal Burmese everywhere. There may be more Burmese than Thai here. It certainly feels that way. Many of the heads of the democracy movement are based in Mae Sot as well as ethnic rebel leaders. Today, the air is abuzz with thoughts and hopes that Aung Sang Suu Kyi could be released from house arrest.
I can think of no comparable person in our world. After her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won by an overwhelming mandate of the people (more than 80% of the vote) the junta immediately put her under house arrest and imprisoned NLD officials. There, Daw Suu has remained for 12 of the past 19 years. She is the only Nobel Peace Laureate under lock and key.
"The Lady", as Daw Suu is affectionately known, cannot legally be held another day. If the lawless generals hold to their own laws (!), they must release her. Now.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has met with thug Gen. Than Shwe but should really push to meet with the elected leader also.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) begin pledge negotiations with the generals tomorrow in Rangoon. No doubt deals will be cut.
ASEAN and the UN are in a unique position at this moment. The junta is asking for 11.7 billion dollars in aid. ASEAN-UN representatives should see to it that Aung Sang Suu Kyi is seated at the table with them. ASEAN should encourage the generals to see that her inclusion would send a strong signal to the world and their own that the generals are not afraid to engage in open dialogue. In fact, we know that the generals are scared out of their warped little minds. But let's encourage the thugs to do the right thing here.
Daw Suu has always said that there is a place for the military in Burma - it is to protect the people. This devoutly Buddhist, peace-promoting chosen leader of Burma should not be ignored nor forgotten by world leaders at this pivotal time. She represents the will of her people. And these shattered millions deserve the best.
Mae Sot, Thailand
May 24, 2008