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On the Release of Daw Aung San Suu

Subject: On the Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

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Htun Aung Gyaw 
426 Winthrop Dr, Apt 6
Ithaca, NY 14850
Graduate Student,  Asian Studies 
Cornell University
e-mail:  hag2@xxxxxxxxxxx 

by Htun Aung Gyaw 

The SLORC released Aung San Suu Kyi one day before her
detention period expired.   Many people wrote congratulatory
letters but as a Burmese national and a former political
prisoner under military rule, I believe it is too early to
conclude that her release was really a positive change.  I
remember too well how the SLORC lied to the people and
ignored the promises it had made.  SLORC continues to ignore
the 1990 election results.  Moreover, the SLORC did not
mention the news of Aung San Suu Kyi's release in the
newspapers nor on the radio and television in Burma.  Bear in
mind that Aung San Suu Kyi is not an ordinary citizen of
Burma: she is the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a
future leader of Burma.  

SLORC released Aung San Suu Kyi for the following reasons: 

1.   According to the SLORC's law, her detention period was
almost over, but in reality she was  supposed to be free one
year ago. 
2.  The SLORC has been afraid of international pressure,
especially from the US and the UN.         
3. The SLORC has gained some confidence in controlling the
country because foreign investment has risen to $2 billion
which means foreign countries accept and support them. 
4. SLORC has confidence that they can now control the NLD
because it is totally paralyzed, existing in name only.  The
person who provided the space for the NLD main office was
temporarily detained and threatened.  As a result, the NLD
main office was moved to the house of Aung Shwe (Acting
Chairman who compromises with SLORC) .  Aung Shwe
single-handedly forced the expulsion of Aung San Suu Kyi,
Tin Oo and Kyi Maung from the NLD party. As a result, the
people who were working in the headquarters quit the office. 
This information came from Mr X. (an interview with Mr X
who was a staff member from the main office ).  Similarly,
almost all the NLD branch offices in towns and cities have
been forced to close down.  Moreover, some members were
forced to serve as porters in the frontiers and went missing. 
Since the Gandhi Convention in 1990, there have been no
annual NLD meetings or party conventions up to the present.    


Presently, it is not only the NLD that is frozen but other
political parties as well.  The SLORC claim is that the army is
not interested in party politics because the goal of party politics
is to gain power for a specific party.  The SLORC, they
maintain, is only interested in national politics. SLORC's
propagandists have written many articles contrasting party
politics and national politics.  National politics means trying to
gain power in the national interest.  SLORC says that the army
will play the leading role in the Burmese politics because the
army's interest is only the national interest.  However, no
matter what the explanation is, both have the common goal--trying to get power.  The SLORC is trying to confuse the
people who lack of education.  Intellectuals understand that
their excuse is not reasonable.  The SLORC does not allow
government employees including members of the armed forces
to join political parties.  Their explanation is, if the
government employees joined political parties, the political
parties will use them for their party benefit not for the national
interest.  One question arises, however: why were these
generals who formed the SLORC once themselves members of
the Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP)?  According
to their own interpretation, they were not really interested in
national interest.   Actually, political parties try to gain  power
for their party as for their country's benefit because they
believe that they are the ones who can serve and improve their
country honestly and efficiently.  How can SLORC claim that
political parties have no interest in the country itself? 
Developed countries like the United States, Japan, and the
EEC countries have plural party systems.  They are not run by
their armies.  Why they are developed? Are the political parties
in those countries only working for their party's interest?
Political parties are formed because individuals cannot serve
the whole country directly by themselves.  Therefore,
politicians join each other and form a political party whose
members have the same ideology, understanding, and beliefs to
enable them to serve their nation with their skills.  Their main
goal is to serve the country effectively in the way they believe
is the best for the country and it is also clear that the political
parties in these countries are working for their party's interest
as well as their country's.

We can prove that the SLORC ignored the people's will by
rejecting the 1990 election results.  Their rejection of the
people's will is not in the national interest but entirely for their
own interest.  Under the democratic system, all political parties
have the right to compete with each other to gain power.  The
SLORC is clearly trying to maintain its grip on power by
hiding behind the words "national politics". They control and
use all necessary means including newspapers, television, and
radio broadcasting stations.  Moreover, they persist in using
the arm forces to keep themselves in control.         

In order to maintain power, the SLORC created the Union of
Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).   The
SLORC's chairman Than Shwe is the patron of the USDA
whose official goal is "to consolidate the national races and
develop the country."   The actual goal of the USDA is to
promote the SLORC idea that the army will keep the leading
role in politics.  Now, the USDA is mobilizing mass rallies in
every state and division.  These rallies are of the same style as
the former BSPP's rallies.  All the USDA rallies were fully
backed up by the SLORC.  At the same time, other political
parties are denied the right to organize the people.  In addition,
government employees who are not allowed to participate in
the party politics are forced to attend the USDA rallies.           

Geopolitics plays a big role in Burma's politics.   The Chinese
premier Li Peng visited Burma and encouraged the SLORC.  
Li Peng argued in favor of political stability, claiming that
without political stability it is very hard to improve a country's
economy.  In other words, he wants the SLORC to retain
power since SLORC-imposed stability will encourage an
improving economy.  However, the argument appears
questionable if we examine the past.  When Burma was under
BSPP rule (1962 to 1988), the country may have been more
stable than under the democratic regime but the economy
stagnated and then deteriorated.  Therefore,  Li Peng's
hypothesis about Burma's economic development is not true. 
SLORC has full support from China, which sold $1.4 billion
dollars worth of arms and ammunition to Burma in 1991.  

Since they are neighbours, Burmese politics is directly or
indirectly shaped by China. The Burmese Communist party
(CPB) was the only rebel group in the past that was a credible
opponent for the Burmese army for decades. The CPB finally
fell apart when the Chinese withdrew their support. 
Significantly, both the Chinese and Burmese regimes brutally
oppressed their student movements.

Armed Burmese resistance groups have been under intense
pressure from the Thai and Chinese.  Kachin Independence
Organization  reached an agreement with SLORC because of
Chinese pressure  (Kachin State has a long border between
China and Burma).  Similarly, Mon, Karen, Shan and Karanni
have been pressured by Thailand because their borders are
shared by Thailand.  Much of the arms and ammunition
resistance groups needed to buy from Thai arm dealers was
blocked and at times captured by the Thai army.  On the other
hand, the Burmese army received massive arms shipments
from Singapore and China in order to oppress its own people
using sophisticated weapons.  As a result, some resistance
groups gave up the fight against the regime and accepted
unfair cease fire agreements because they had no choice.  
Perhaps we can say that the Chinese are the major factor in the
prolonged dictatorship in Burma and that if the US could
successfully pressure the Chinese to stop supporting the
regime, democratization would start in Burma.          


Looking back to the 1990 elections and afterwards, people
were allowed to form political parties but no one was allowed
to give a speech in front of more than 50 people.  Many NLD
party organizers were arrested because hundreds of people
attended the NLD meetings.  SLORC's explanation was they
captured the NLD organizers because they were breaking this
law which did not allow gatherings of more than 50 people.
There is no rational law in Burma and there is no morality
under SLORC.  The laws are made, created, ignored,
rewritten, and oftentimes, used simply to exploit the people. 
Under their rule, justice and law contradict each other; their
law does not produce justice: it produces oppression.         

Villagers have been giving porter fees to the Burmese army for
more than 10 years.  If people do not or cannot pay the fees,
they have to serve as porters, and perhaps die, in the frontier
areas..  They work like slaves without compensation and many
die like dogs without human dignity or pity.  Ordinary
Burmese villagers are good decent people; they are not
criminals.  Because of unjust laws, many innocent people are
being killed and this will continue as long as SLORC remains
in power. According to the SLORC's slogan "the army is
sacrificing its lives and shedding its blood for the country,
please help the army".  In reality, it's torrents of  the people's
blood that is flowing, pouring out, for the SLORC.  

In towns and cities, roads are rebuilt, new gardens made, and
lakes cleaned up by the people as volunteers without pay. 
Forced labour has existed in Burma since 1962.  People have 
carried their own food and worked as slaves without pay.   The
SLORC created a motto for its soldiers: " If I want water, go
and get it.  I don't want to hear the excuse that "our bottles
have holes, so we can't carry water. I want water right now!
and you have to bring it even if the bottles have holes."  This is
one of the SLORC creeds.   Thus, when the generals want to
clean the cities, people have to stop their own business and do
what SLORC wants, even if they have no money to buy food
for their own families.  If the army needs something, all the
people have to do it.

Now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, the SLORC
has its own way of celebrating--imposing curfew orders and
jamming the BBC Burmese language broadcasts.   Military
intelligence immediately spread the news that because of some
of Aung San Suu Kyi's political activities, people's living
conditions will be more tightly controlled.   After her release,
the curfew order was imposed by the Township Law and Order
Restoration Council (TLORC) which is a branch of the
SLORC's oppressive machine.  Between 10 PM and  4 AM no
one is allowed to go outside or to do business.  The
consequence is people who are daily workers suffer because
they have to prepare and send their vegetables or finished
products to market in advance.   Now they have to leave their
work place earlier in the day and start their business later in
the morning than before.   Also the transportation flow has
become tighter; people are more crowded in bus stations 
because they can not travel earlier in the morning.  Also tight
security is enforced around Rangoon, including daily checking
and searching  at night from house to house by the members of
the Quarter Law and Order Restoration Council (QLORC),
fire fighters, and regional policemen. If members of these
groups want to open a safe or a locker or inspect personal
property, they have the right to do it.  If anyone dares to try to
stop them, he or she will go to prison and at the least be held in
custody for 3 days.  People are now being awakened in the
middle of night and forced to line up in front of the QLORC or
other inspectors, who  have no respect for people's privacy and
take perverse pleasure in humiliating them.  They also
routinely go through houses room by room, including
bedrooms, to see if somebody is hiding there.  Whenever they
go to a house, the people have to show their household census
chart.   QLORC members check everyone's age and sex.  Some
let children to stay in their beds while they check the house but
others force everyone to line up in front of them.  

Prior to Aung San Suu Kyi release, the searches were
performed once or twice a month.  Now they are a daily
torment.  Some of the people may blame her because they do
not really know who is responsible for these increased
hardships, but most people love her and worry about her

In conclusion, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been released but
many political prisoners remain in prison in Burma.  Except
for Aung San Suu Kyi, who is too influential for them, the
SLORC is blocking every other Burmese politician from
contacting foreign diplomats and journalists.  Recently, three
well-known politicians, U Thu Wai, U Htwe Myint and  U
Tun Shwe, were detained by the SLORC because they
vigorously supported economic sanctions against the SLORC
and met often with the foreign diplomats.  Even Aung San Suu
Kyi's comments that it is not necessary to rush and invest in
Burma without knowing the real political situation, however,
was immediately and strongly criticized by SLORC's
propagandists in the newspapers.  One article in the New Light
of Myanmar newspaper commented that if economic sanctions
are imposed, SLORC may step down but before that happens,
the poor will suffer first.         

Clearly, the SLORC is worried about economic sanctions and
about an uprising within the country.  As a result, they
detained well-known politicians like U Thu Wai and U Htwe
Myint who openly supported the sanctions.  The jamming of
BBC Burmese language broadcasts proves SLORC is afraid of
an uprising within the country because BBC is the most
reliable radio station for the Burmese people and its Burmese
language short wave broadcasts are widely listen to by the
Burmese population.   In 1988, BBC informed the Burmese
people nationwide that the students were going to strike and
demonstrate on August 8.  The SLORC is seeking to prevent
another uprising by jamming the BBC which airs Aung San
Suu Kyi's  interviews and news about Burma from around the
world which are tightly controlled.  

SLORC's tactics attempt to narrow Aung San Suu Kyi's
activities by threatening or detaining her close associates and
known politicians.  If Aung San Suu Kyi cannot mobilize the
people within one year, with the support of the USDA rallies,
the SLORC will certainly approve the new constitution which
bars her from politics,  and they will hold new elections
arguing that 1990 elections is out of date.  

International pressure, especially from the US and the UN, is
the key in changing Burma for the future.  The military regime
could not improve our country's development in more than 26
years under the name of socialism, but they never admitted
defeat.  They are still clinging to power by using dirty tricks. 
Surely even if the Burmese economy happened to improve, the
military would not voluntarily hand over power to the people.