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Myanmar's Songs of Sadness

September 27, 2007
A few years back, when I wrote about the courageous daughter of General Aung San, the hero of Burma's freedom struggle, I had concluded: ''She [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] has practiced all [the Indian] values and above all that of Abhaya, 'fearlessness' which is 'not merely bodily courage but an absence of fear from the mind'. We salute you, the Fearless Lady of Rangoon and wish you 'outer' Freedom!''

Let us not forget that in 1988, millions of Burmese walked down the streets of Rangoon (today Yangon) to demand greater democracy for Burma (now Myanmar). The protests had culminated on August 8, 1988 (8-8-88) when thousands of demonstrators were massacred by the military junta (some speak of 3,500).

The time of reckoning had come for Suu Kyi. Two weeks later, she officially became the leader of the National League for Democracy which since then has opposed the military regime. Even though her party won a landslide victory in the general elections, securing 82 per cent of the seats in May 1990, the Generals have always refused to validate the results and Suu Kyi has remained under house arrest.

One question immediately comes to mind. Why, after so many years, have the gentle people of Burma not found their 'outer freedom'? The answer is simple: the military junta has continuously received strong support from China and to a certain extent from India.

Text: Claude Arpi | Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Image: Buddhist monks and protesters carrying batons are seen in a street in downtown Yangon, on September 26. Myanmar moved to crush the mass rallies that have erupted nationwide against the military regime, as security forces fired tear gas, warning shots, and beat protesters in the streets.

Also read: Monks face military's might in Myanmar


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