Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced “ahng sahn soo chee”) was released this weekend from an on again, off again house arrest in Burma that has spanned fifteen of the last twenty-one years. She was arrested in July of 1989 because of her involvement with the National League for Democracy, a political party that opposed the ruling regime. In Burma’s 1990 general elections her pro-Democracy political party won a convincing victory but the will of the people went unfulfilled: The government was kept under the control of its ruling military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi remained imprisoned.
Her release comes on the heels of an election last week in Myanmar that President Obama characterized as “neither free nor fair.” (Myanmar and Burma are one in the same. Here’s an explanation for the identity crisis). Some see Aung San Suu Kyi’s release as a moment of hope for Burma, where life is repressive and ethnic strife is frequent. Others, however, point out that with strings attached to her activities by the ruling military junta, the release (her third in over two decades) could end the same way as the first two – as an act of political theater. We’ll know in the days and weeks to come whether this time is for real. Public appearances outside of her home in Rangoon and meetings with journalists and diplomats in the last twenty-four hours are a promising sign.
The human rights issues in Burma have been an important cause for HeadCount artist Al Schnier, guitarist of moe., who brought Burmese monks to moe.down 2009 for discussions and the screening of the documentary Burma VJ. We spoke with Al about this weekend’s news. He said:
The release of Aung San Suu Kyi, after so many years of wrongful imprisonment, is a great step in the right direction for Burma. It can give us hope that the efforts around the globe to raise awareness and bring this cause to light have been effective. Hopefully, the military regime will follow by releasing all other dissidents, monks and others who have been wrongfully imprisoned. With hope, one day the people of Burma can be free and democratic again.
HeadCount artist Brett Dennen has also gotten involved, releasing this video with the U.S. Campaign for Burma, titled “Follow Your Heart (Burma It Can’t Wait)”.