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Vanity Fair Article on Suu and her

Subject: Vanity Fair Article on Suu and her struggle for Democracy Part I

>Subject:Vanity Fair Article on Suu and her struggle for Democracy Part I
>Please post.
>by Edward Klein
>from Vainty Fair (October, 1995), pp. 120-144
>"Call me Suu."
>Aung San Suu Kyi was showing me around teh grounds of her lakeside villa
>in Rangoon, where she been held under house arrest for six years. I had
>made a number of attempts to see her since she won the Nobel Peace Prize
>in 1991.  But it was only after her release this past summer by the
>generals who rule Myanmar--as Burma is now known--that I was finally able
>to meet the world's most famous political prisoner.
>        Pictures don't capture her special aura.  She was wearing a
>lungyi, the traditional Burmese sarong, which hugged her hips and gave her
>slender figure a sinuous grace. A sprig of yellow flowers dangled from the
>bun at the nape of her neck. Though only five feet four, she possessed a
>commanding presence.
>        "It's hard to think of you as just plain Suu," I said.
>        "Perhaps you'll change your mind when you get to know me better."
>        I took out my note book and asked," Where shall we begin?"
>        She looked around and said," Right here. On the day when they
>placed me under arrest, this garden was still quite beautiful. There were
>lots of white Madonna lilies, fields and fields of them, and frangipani,
>and frangrant yellow jasmines, and gardenias--all highly scented
>flowers--and a flower from South America that changes its color as it
>matures and is called 'yesterday, today, and tomorrow.'
>        "In the beginning," she continued, "I'd go out and work in the
>garden and talk with the guards.  There were 15 soldiers, all of them
>armed.  But a garden like this requires a lot of money to keep up, and I
>couldn't afford to take care of it.  Of course, I refused to accept
>anything from the military."
>        She spoke with a British accent, which she had acquired while at
>Oxford University.  When she wanted to exphasize a point, she curled her
>hands into fists and hammered them against her sides.
>        "Sometimes I didn't even have enough money to eat," she went on.
>"I became so weak from malnourishment that my hair fell out, and I
>couldn't get out of bed.  I was afraid that I had damaged my heart.  Every
>time I moved, my heart went thump-thump-thump, and it was hard to breath.
>I fell to nearly 90 pounds from my normal 106.  I thought to myself that
>I'd die of heart failure, not starvation at all. Then my eyes started to
>go bad. I developed spondylosis, which is a degeneration of the spinal
>column."  She paused for a moment, then pointed with a finger to her head
>and said,"But they never got me up here.  However, I did have to let the
>garden go. When they released me, one of the first things I did was have a
>team of gardener come and clear it out.  It was full of snakes, and had
>become dangerous."
>        The garden was now nothing more than a mud pile, for her release
>had come at the height of the monsoon season, when drenching rains turn
>vast expenses of Burma into a vaporous waterworld that stretches from the
>shores of the Andaman Sea nearly to the foothills of the Himalayas.  Her
>freedom had also coincided with Wa-zo, the advent of Buddhist Lent, a
>season for fasting and penitence when teenage boys shave their heads and
>temporarily enter the monastic orde, and the country's hundreds of
>thousands of monks retreat from the outside world in search of Nirvana,
>the ultimate deliverance from suffering and misery.
>        We apporached her two-story villa.  Like most buildings in
>Rangoon, it was in a state of ruin.  Its crumbling stucco walls were
>stained black with mildew, and it looked as though it hadn't seen a coat
>of paint since the British granted Burma its independence in 1948.  The
>quaint decay of Rangoon made me feel as though I had stepped back in time
>into a novel by Somerset Maugham.
>        I took off my shoes as I entered the foyer, and was confronted by
>pages of handwritten political statements which she had posted in defiance
>of her captors.  To raise money during her years of confinement, she had
>sold all her valuable furniture, keeping only a dining-room table and a
>piano, which she had stopped playing after a string snapped during one of
>her temperamental poundings.  One of the family photos on the wall showed
>her as a baby with her father, the founder of modern Burma, who was
>martyred by an assassin's bullet in 1947, when she wastwo.
>        All her life she has been obsessed with the father she never knew.
>She adopted his famous name, Aung San (pronouced Awng Sahn), and added it
>to her given name, Suu Kyi (Sue Chee).  A heroic statue of her father
>stands in the middle of a park in Rangoon, and it is easy to see from its
>expression that Aung San Suu Kyi is his spitting image.
>        "I always felt close to my father," she said. " It never left my
>mind that he would wish me to do something for my country.  When I
>returned to Burma in 1988 to nurse my sick mother, I was planning on
>starting a chain of libraries in my father's name.  A life of politics
>held no attraction for me.  But the people of my country were demanding
>for democracy, and as my father's daughter, I felt I had a duty to get
>        As she spoke, a crowd was gathering in the stagnant afternoon heat
>outside her iron gate on University Avenue.  Millions of her countrymen
>had learned of her release from the Burmese-language shortwave broadcasts
>of the Voice of America and the BBC.  Neither the state-controlled
>television station nor the regime's daily mouthpiece, The New Light of
>Myanmar, had summoned up the nerve to acknowledge her freedom.
>        The junta's nervousness was understandable.  In the minds of her
>countrymen, AUng San Suu Kyi had become a legend.  Friends and foes never
>referred to her by name; they called her the Lady.  The only other Burmese
>who inspired such awe was Ne Win, the country's longtime strongman, who,
>though now 84 and in the twilight of his rule, was referred to as the Old
>        An aide came to tell her that it was time to address the crowd.  I
>followed her outside, where I saw a team of her supporters lugging two
>huge Peavey speakers up the driveway to the gate.  They lifted the
>speakers onto the limbs of trees and attached the wires to an amplifier.
>A desk was placed against the verdigris-covered gate, and Aung San Suu Kyi
>climbed on top and greeted the crowd outside.  It roared its approval.
>        There were perhaps 500 people standing on both sides of the
>street, including a large number of students, as well as monks in saffron
>robes and nuns in pink vestments.  Many of the women and children had
>coated their faces with *thanaka*, a pale-yellowish paste made from the
>bark of a tree, which turns to powder and is used as makeup and sunblock.
>They looked like the gathering of an African tribe.
>        I was struck by the courage of the people; after all, the last
>time they had turned out en masse to support leaders demanding democractic
>reform, the army had met them with tanks and machine guns, murdering far
>more people than were killed in the bloody massacre of Chinese students in
>Beijeing's Tiananmen Square a year later.
>        When I stepped back from the gate, I found myself standing next to
>one of her closest political associates.  He had been imprisoned several
>time in the notorious Insein Prison, in the northern suburbs of Rangoon,
>which is, appropriately enough, pronounced "Insane" Prison.
>        "I knew her father, and she reminds me so much of him," he told
>me.  "The way she smiles and tilts her head--all her gestures are similar
>to his.  When she came back to Burma, she had no intention of becoming
>celebrity.  She was inexperienced in politics.  It was a hard destiny.
>But she had the gift.  And she matured in six years of house arrest."
>        He looked up at Aung San Suu Kyi, who was exhorting the crowd.
>"We must avoid having extreme ideas," she told them. "Think before you do
>anything!" Since her release, she had struck a conciliatory tone.  But it
>was possible that a real test of her leadership would come the next day,
>Martyr's Day, a national holiday commemorating the assassination of AUng
>San and six of his colleagues.  EVeryone in Burma was wondering whether
>AUng San Suu Kyi's plans to lay a wreath at her father's mausoleum would
>set off a fresh round of clashes between teh forces of teh Lady and those
>of the Old Man.
>        That night I sat in the dining room of the Inya Lake Hotel, a mile
>north of Aung San Suu Kyi's villa, and watched as searching lights played
>over the murky water and boats patrolled the shore in front of the
>residence of Ne Win.  The Old Man's compound is ringed by a steel fence
>and protected  by landmines. Two thousands troops were reportedly
>stationed nearby.
>        In his younger days, Ne Win was a frequent traveler to the West.
>On a whim, he would collect a contingent of his ministers and fly to
>Vienna, where he consulted a famous psychiatrist by the name of Hans Hoff.
>Many of his trips were bankrolled with bags of rubies and other precious
>stones, which are found in profusion in Burma.  In April 1987 he made a
>secret, seven-day trip to Oaklahoma City to visit Ardith Dolese, a wealthy
>American woman, whom he credited with having helped save his life almost
>40 years earlier in England by referring him to a doctor when he was ill.
>End Text Part I.

"The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for
life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social
and economic aspirations."

>From Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's opening keynote address at NGO Forum on Women,
Beijing 1995