Tag Archive for 'Myanmar'

The face of Buddhist terror: Myanmar bans Time issue


Myanmar’s government has banned this week’s issue of Time magazine because of a cover story about a Buddhist monk accused of fueling recent religious violence in the country. State television announced that the decision was made “in order to prevent the recurrence of racial and religious riots.” More here in The Irrawady.

The story by Hannah Beech profiles the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu who advocates social exclusion of the country’s minority Muslim population. Read AFP report here

YouTube video: Wirathu lashes out at Time magazine

Burma abolishes pre-censorship of media. What does it really mean?

In The Irrawady:

The decision of the Burmese government on Monday to abolish the pre-censorship of articles in the national media (read more here) has received a mixed response. The Irrawaddy examines the consequences of this landmark move.

What did the PSRD say to editors?

The Burmese government told editors of weekly journals on Monday that, effective immediately, their outlets “no longer need to pass the censorship board.” Tint Swe, the head of Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), added that the easing of restrictions was the result of policy changes within the Ministry of Information.

So time to congratulate journalists in Burma?

Journalists who faced pressure and imprisonment in Burma cautiously welcomed the announcement that they will no longer be required to submit articles to the country’s draconian censorship board. But they are very aware that “Big Brother” is still there to monitor and watch.

The move is not enough to restore media freedom. However, it is safe to say that the government has made a small concession after shutting down local journals and facing pressure and street protest from journalists. More:

A Burmese tug of words

Swe Win, a freelance journalist based in Yangon, in NYT:

Yangon, Myanmar — Once again a government body here has chided Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for calling the country Burma during her trips to Thailand and Europe. Say Myanmar, she was told, as is called for by the 2008 Constitution.

This tug of words has been going on for decades. To some it matters because it symbolizes the differences between the generals who have long ruled the country and those who resist them, but it’s also kind of pointless. The truth is neither name is good enough.

Myanmar is a direct pronunciation in English of the country’s official Burmese name Myanma — meaning fast and strong people — which dates back to the 12th century. During British colonial rule, from 1885 to 1948, the country was known as Burma (from the Burmese Bamar). During the four decades after independence, a funny situation developed: though in Burmese the country’s name reverted to Myanmar (to mark a break from the colonial period), in English the country was called the Union of Burma and then, after 1974, the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Burma only became Myanmar in English, too, by order of the military rulers in 1989, a year after a crackdown on a democratic uprising. Eager to cast themselves as true nationalists, the generals passed the Adaptation of Expression Law, amending all English names in conformity with Burmese pronunciation. Rangoon became Yangon, and the central coastal town Moulmein, where begins Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Mandalay,” became Mawlamyine. More:

Aung San Suu Kyi, a true Gandhian

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph:

The comparison is natural, not forced. As I see it, there are at least six respects in which Suu Kyi’s career parallels that of the Mahatma: 1. a leavening of politics with morality, which comes in both cases from a religious faith, which is devout without being dogmatic; 2. a commitment to non-violence in word and in deed; 3. a willingness to reach out to one’s rivals and opponents; 4. an openness to ideas and innovations from other cultures; 5. an utter fearlessness, with death holding no dangers for them; 6. great personal charm, a feature of which is a sense of humour.

However, while Aung San Suu Kyi can certainly be compared to Gandhi, she cannot (as she perhaps would be the first to acknowledge) be equated to him. Gandhi came first, crafting the techniques of non-violent resistance of which Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, and Aung San Suu Kyi have been such outstanding exemplars. Besides, Gandhi’s range of interests (and obsessions) was far greater.

India is much larger than Burma, and much more diverse in linguistic and religious terms. Gandhi lived and died for Hindu-Muslim harmony, but we know little of how Suu Kyi intends to stem Budddhist chauvinism in Myanmar by giving greater respect to Muslims, tribals and other minorities. India is a far more hierarchical society than Myanmar; so can be no real parallel in Suu Kyi’s life to Gandhi’s lifelong struggle against untouchability. And Gandhi was also a precocious environmentalist.

That said, Suu Kyi is far closer to Gandhi, and a much better Gandhian, than any Indian now living. More

A Nepal poppy and a sneezing monkey among top 10 new species

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and a committee of scientists from around the world announced their picks for the top 10 new species described in 2011. [via a Tweet by Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies]:

Common Name: Nepalese Autumn Poppy

Family: Papaveraceae

How it made the Top 10: Many newly discovered species are small in size or secretive in habits, but not all. This beautiful and vibrantly colored poppy has remained unknown to science until now. This is no doubt due in part to the extreme environment where the flower lives at an elevation of 10,827 to 13,780 feet in central Nepal. It is also evidence of the paucity of botanists studying the Asian flora as specimens of Meconopsis autumnalis had been collected twice before, although not recognized as new — first in 1962 by the storied Himalayan plant hunter Adam Stainton and again in 1994 by staff of the University of Tokyo’s Department of Plant Resources. The recent rediscovery of the poppy in the field was made by intrepid botanists collecting plants miles from human habitation in heavy monsoon rains.  More: and here

… and a snub-nosed monkey from Myanmar (Burma) that sneezes when it rains

Name: Rhinopithecus strykeri

Common Name: Sneezing Monkey

Family: Cercopithecidae

How it made the Top 10: Since 2000, the number of mammals discovered each year only averages about 36 so it was nothing to sneeze at when a new primate came to the attention of scientists who were conducting a gibbon survey in the high mountains of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Rhinopithecus strykeri is the first snub-nosed monkey to be reported from Myanmar and is believed to be Critically Endangered. It is distinctive for its mostly black fur and white beard and for sneezing when it rains – although it tries to avoid dripping rainwater in its turned up nose by sitting with its head between its legs. While conducting interviews for the Hoolock Gibbon Status Review, hunters and villagers told the survey team of scientists that they could find this snub-nosed monkey by waiting until it rained and listening for sneezes in the trees. We say congratulations… and Gesundheit.

More here and here


A girl named Suu

Malavika Karlekar remembers ‘The Lady’ she knew. In Outlook:

When a childhood friend is the face of a movement for democracy in a country ruled by a junta, time can only partially dim, not ever erase, one’s memories of her. Among other things, I remember Aung San Suu Kyi’s ready wit. Some years ago, I chanced upon a picture postcard from her marked “Oxford, 1979”. “Doesn’t the gargoyle on the New College bell tower look like Mr X?” she’d asked, referring to an Economics don, her tutor who’d been quite taken by her Oriental charm. I could almost hear her giggle; she saw humour in things we found quotidian. The quality surely emboldened her in the dark years.

As schoolgirls at Delhi’s Convent of Jesus and Mary in the last years of the Nehruvian era, we were ingenues, sheltered from the real world. Suu’s mother, the gracious Daw Khin Kyi (Madame Aung San), Burma’s ambassador to India at the time, would brook no indiscipline. Sloppiness or slouching was out. For habitual loungers to whom divans with bolsters signified ultimate bliss, Suu’s upright posture was a constant reminder of how young ladies should conduct themselves. Of course, the strict regimen of a convent with its insistence on well-starched divided skirts (what if ordinary skirts billowed in the wind?) just that one inch above the knees, Angelus at noon and learning by rote only reinforced familial values of discipline and order. More:

A most unlikely liberator in Myanmar

Thomas Fuller on U Thein Sein in NYT:

For most of his career he was a loyal apparatchik in one of the world’s most brutal military regimes. But in the 12 months since he became president of Myanmar, U Thein Sein has been leading this country of 55 million down a radical path from dictatorship to democracy, vowing, as he told the nation earlier this month, to “root out the evil legacies deeply entrenched in our society.”

There are no pat answers as to why Mr. Thein Sein, a bespectacled and bookish 66-year-old with a sphinxlike smile, decided to shake up one of Asia’s poorest and most hermetic countries. And little has been published about the president, a former general who has been called Myanmar’s Mikhail Gorbachev, perhaps prematurely given the fragility of reforms.

But a trip to Kyonku, his birthplace, located in a remote corner of the country, offers some insights into his character and clues as to what prompted him to embark on such an ambitious reform program.

Kyonku is a small village in the delta of the Irrawaddy River, an area connected by a vast network of canals, inlets and rivers.

Four years ago, Mr. Thein Sein returned to the delta after a cyclone swept in from the Indian Ocean and devastated the area. Cylone Nargis was by far Myanmar’s worst natural disaster, killing more than 130,000 people and transforming the fertile countryside of Mr. Thein Sein’s childhood into a landscape of flattened villages and bloated bodies bobbing downstream. More:


Towards a Burmese spring

Larry Jagan in Himal Southasian:

Change is in the air in Burma, according to many in Rangoon. Though how long until the winds shift remains an open question. ‘There’s definitely a Burmese Spring here,’ said a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), on condition of anonymity. ‘But whether it’s only an illusion, a false dawn as we have had many times before, only time will tell.’ Nonetheless, many in the pro-democracy movement within Burma are optimistic, believing that the new president, Thein Sein, is serious about economic and political change. Critically, this is a process that seems to include Suu Kyi herself, though for the moment it is very unclear what role she may play.

Recent months have seen the continual unveiling of signs that the country’s new quasi-civilian government is trying to pursue a genuine transition to democracy of some sort. The release of more than 200 political prisoners, including the renowned comedian Zarganar, was one of the most recent, and most significant, signals that the new government is serious about political reform. According to a senior government minister on condition of anonymity, preparations are underway for the release of at least 200 more political detainees as well.

Taken together, the movements made in the year since the new government was formed strike many as significant – though with caveats. ‘There is enough to make us cautiously optimistic, with the stress on optimistic,’ Steve Marshall, the head of the International Labour Organisation in Rangoon, told this writer recently. Almost the exact same tone has been struck by Kurt Campbell, the US State Department official in charge of the region. ‘I think it would be fair to say that winds of change are clearly blowing through Burma,’ he said in Bangkok in October. ‘The extent of it is still unclear, but everyone who’s gone there recognises that there are changes.’ More:

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to run in Burma elections

In The Independent:

Myanmar’s main opposition party led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi decided today to rejoin politics and register for future elections, signaling its confidence in recent reforms by the military-aligned government.

The National League for Democracy party “has unanimously decided to reregister as a political party … and will run in the elections,” it said in a statement issued at the end of a meeting of senior members from across the country.

Some joyous members broke into a dance as the announcement was made.

“What we are doing now involves a lot of risk but it is time to take the risk because in politics there is no 100 percent assurance of success,” Suu Kyi told them. More:

From prisoner to future president?

Pariah regime in China’s shadow

In Wall Street Journal, Patrick Barta gets a rare interview with Myanmar’s information and culture minister who speaks of his country’s expanded reforms and ongoing sanctions.

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar—Myanmar’s government, in the first extended interview with a major Western news organization in years, called for the U.S. to recognize its recent string of reforms and abandon economic sanctions that is says are hurting its ability to open up further.

The interview, conducted by the country’s information and culture minister flanked by a phalanx of advisers and officials, comes as U.S. President Barack Obama and Asian leaders head to Indonesia for a summit at which Myanmar is seeking to boost its international reputation after decades of tough military rule.

Myanmar has embarked on an “irreversible” reform process, said the minister, U Kyaw Hsan, speaking for the government. He blamed U.S. sanctions for delaying the country’s development and said they made Myanmar more reliant on Chinese companies. “When we are striving for development, we cannot be choosers—we have accepted what is best for the country,” he said. more

A secret interview with The Lady

One year ago, the world’s best-known democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in Burma, where she had spent 15 of the last 21 years. As she starts making trips outside Rangoon and meeting government officials, Ed Caesar secretly meets with her, and asks if this brutal regime has really taken steps on the road to freedom. From Dazed Digital.

Freedom means something different to Aung San Suu Kyi than it might to you or me. Imagine you had been placed under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years – would you consider yourself free? How about if, since being released in November last year, you had been placed under constant surveillance, and had your travel restricted by the ruling military government – the same government you had watched plunder your country’s natural resources for political gain, imprison political enemies, and ethnically cleanse troublesome minorities while you were powerless to influence events? How about if your English husband had died without you by his side because he was refused a visa, and you knew that if you left the country to be with him you might never have been able to return? Would you feel at liberty? Your answer, almost certainly, would be no.

Aung San Suu Kyi would politely disagree. “After I was released, people used to keep asking me, ‘What is it like to be free?’” she tells me, in her forthright, plummy English. “And it was very difficult for me to answer – I always felt free. As far as my state of mind was concerned, I didn’t feel any different… People ask me about what sacrifices I’ve made and I always answer that I’ve made no sacrifices – I’ve made choices. I don’t get angry. I wasn’t sacrificing myself for anybody. Really, it was a choice I made in accordance with what I believed.”

To most people, this might seem like inhuman stoicism. Aung San Suu Kyi, plainly, is not most people.

Our interview takes place in Rangoon in late July, in the tumbledown two-storey headquarters of the National League For Democracy, the political party Aung San Suu Kyi co-founded in 1988. Downstairs, a group of activists are listening to a lecture on political science. Upstairs, in a cool, clean office, The Lady – as she is known to her supporters – receives guests. Aung San Suu Kyi is a striking woman. Small and delicate as a sparrow, she is still, at 66, arrestingly beautiful. When we meet, she is wearing a grey, long-sleeved top with a floral print, a black skirt and no shoes. Her mahogany hair is tied back with green and white flowers. And, apart from her wide, dancing, chestnut eyes, she possesses a stillness that proves quite disarming.

This ability to project serenity is, as I would discover, a large part of her appeal. On the last day of my stay in Rangoon, I asked a young man who I knew to be a NLD supporter why he admired Aung San Suu Kyi so much. He said that when he saw her face, he felt “relaxed”. more

Burma’s winds of change

From Asia Sentinel:

While Burma’s civilian government appears willing to at least observe the veneer of democracy, hardliners and some former top generals are uneasy with the extent and pace of change and are threatening to force another military coup, diplomatic sources in Rangoon say.

The government, for the first time since the military seized power more than 20 years ago, is making a concerted effort to tackle the country’s poverty. The newly elected parliament – though many MPs owe their seats to a manipulated vote last November — is beginning to function.

Last week’s executive decision by president Thein Sein to suspend construction on the controversial Myitsone dam in Kachin state near the border with China is another example of the government’s responsiveness to the wishes of the people, according to a senior Burmese government official. And now the government seems poised to release political prisoners.

The key to change is Thein Sein’s willingness to accommodate the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This rapprochement, after their first meeting some seven weeks ago — seems to have set a new tone. More:

Controversy over dam fuels rare public outcry in Myanmar


Myitsone, Myanmar — The massive dam under construction in this remote corner of Myanmar is generating a litany of concerns that are not uncommon to such projects: about the risks of tampering with nature, about damage to wildlife, about the displacement of villagers.

But for many people in Myanmar, also known as Burma, the fears surrounding the Myitsone dam go much deeper. It will be the first dam across the Irrawaddy River, the iconic, even mythic waterway that has given life to centuries of Burmese civilization.

Passions are high. A government minister broke down in tears at a news conference last month when asked about the dam. High-ranking officials are said to be sharply divided over the wisdom of the project.

And in an authoritarian country that has begun to experiment with looser controls on the news media, the controversy has raised the prospect of something exceedingly unusual: that public outrage might actually force the government to reconsider its plans.

The Myitsone dam will flood an area four times the size of Manhattan. Government officials who support the project say it will be an invaluable source of electricity and cash, a milestone in Myanmar’s development. Critics say it will cause irreparable damage to the Irrawaddy, the lifeline of millions of Burmese downstream. More:

Land of shadows

As it emerges from isolation, the nation of Myanmar is caught between repression and reform, dark and light, writes Brook Larmer in National Geographic

It’s the magic hour in Yangon, when the last rays of sunlight, softer, cooler now, bathe the crumbling downtown in a golden glow, beckoning residents out into the streets. Giggling children race to buy fresh sugarcane juice. Women with cheeks daubed with a paste made of bark—the alluring Burmese sunblock—haggle with a fishmonger. In the street, bare-chested teenage boys in a circle play a rowdy game of chinlon, a sort of acrobatic Hacky Sack, while potbellied men in T-shirts and longyi, the traditional Burmese sarong, sit on the sidewalk chewing red wads of betel nut.

The carnival-like atmosphere doesn’t last. Night falls fast in the tropics, and the power shortages that plague Myanmar give the sudden transition a spooky edge. A decaying colonial-era government building goes black. The alleyway next door emits the bluish glow of television sets powered by portable generators. Under the trees the vendors are invisible, but candles illuminate their wares: circles of silvery fish, clusters of purple banana flowers, stacks of betel leaves. And lined up in a blue wooden case, pirated DVDs of American movies and music.

“Welcome to the Hotel California,” calls out a voice from the shadows in perfect English. Three young men sit on plastic stools in the street, laughing at the greeting. The DVD vendor, a skinny 29-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses and a pink button-down shirt, leaps up with a smile. Though his schooling ended in fourth grade, he speaks English in an eruption of phrases gleaned from Hollywood movies and 1950s grammar books. Meeting an American, he says, makes him feel “over the moon, on cloud nine, pleased as punch.” more

New humility for the hegemon

India’s poor relations with its neighbours is hurting its global ambitions, says The Economist

NO ONE loves a huge neighbour. For all that, India’s relations with the countries that ring it are abysmal. Of the eight with which it shares a land or maritime boundary, only two can be said to be happy with India: tiny Maldives, where India has the only foreign embassy and dispenses much largesse, and Bhutan, which has a policy of being happy about everything. Among its other South Asian neighbours, the world’s biggest democracy is incredible mainly because of its amazing ability to generate wariness and resentment.

Until recently it operated a shoot-to-kill policy towards migrant workers and cattle rustlers along its long border with Bangladesh. Over the years it has meddled madly in Nepal’s internal affairs. In Myanmar India snuggles up to the country’s thuggish dictators, leaving the beleaguered opposition to wonder what happened to India’s championing of democracy. Relations with Sri Lanka are conflicted. It treats China with more respect, but feuds with it about its border. more

Burma – 2011′s hippest holiday destination

Phoebe Kennedy in The Independent:

Despite the lure of its gleaming pagodas, fabled cities and pristine beaches, military-ruled Burma has been off the tourist map for years, shunned by conscientious travellers who feared that visiting the country would help only to prop up one of the world’s most oppressive dictatorships. But with the release late last year of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose calls for a tourism boycott have long kept holidaymakers away, travel industry experts are cautiously hopeful that foreign visitors might once again beat a path to one of south-east Asia’s unspoilt gems.

Accolades such as being named Wanderlust magazine’s “top emerging travel destination of 2011″ should help to propel Burma from a tourism backwater to an exciting new destination – although activists warn that the nation needs to make a lot of progress before becoming a guilt-free holiday paradise. “Burma needs to be visited with care. But those who do visit carefully… inevitably return with exceptional memories,” said Wanderlust in its award citation. “There are the sights, natural and man-made – the stupa-studded plains of Bagan, Yangon’s giant golden pagoda, the floating gardens of Inle Lake – but it’s the resilient and welcoming Burmese people who create the lasting impression.” More:

Suu Kyi the movie

The story of Aung San Suu Kyi’s life is being translated in film as The Lady, starring Michelle Yeoh. From Time:

On Nov. 13, Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi walked free from seven years of house arrest in Rangoon. She called her son Kim Aris. She greeted supporters outside her lakeside home. Then she got on a plane to Bangkok where, on a stage erected in a parking lot on the city’s outskirts, she appeared in a film made by a bearded Frenchman called Luc Something.

That’s what some of the 2,000 Thai extras on the set of Luc Besson’s latest movie seem to think, and their confusion is forgivable. Since filming of his biopic The Lady began in Thailand in mid-October, everyone from Besson to best boy has been perplexed by how often art has imitated life — and vice versa.

Take Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh, the former Bond girl who plays Suu Kyi. Yeoh not only strongly resembles the lissome Nobel laureate, but also occupies the part so convincingly that Besson calls it “perfect for her.” “From the moment I saw this actress,” says Thein Win, a Burmese actor playing a member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), “I thought, ‘She is Daw [Aunt] Suu.’”

Movie magic and reality merged again when the junta finally allowed Suu Kyi to walk free. Besson had just re-created her release from a previous spell of house arrest, when she steps out of her Rangoon home to cheers from a crowd of supporters. Two days later, Besson and his cast sat in Yeoh’s Bangkok hotel suite to watch a near identical scene — this one for real — play out on TV. “It was surreal,” says Besson. Also in the room was Aris, chatting on the phone to his mother: “I’m here with Michelle. Yes, the woman playing you.” Then the champagne started flowing. “It was so sweet,” says Yeoh. “We were all very privileged to share that moment with him.” More:

First still pictures here.

WikiLeaks cables: Burma general considered Manchester United buyout

From The Guardian:

The leader of Burma’s military junta considered making a $1bn (£634m) bid to buy Manchester United football club around the time it was facing rising anger from the United Nations over its “unacceptably slow” response to cyclone Nargis.Than Shwe, commander in chief of the armed forces and a fan of United, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson, according to a cable from the US embassy in Rangoon. It details how the regime was thought to be using football to distract its population from ongoing political and economic problems.

The proposal was made prior to January 2009; only months earlier, in May 2008, the Burmese junta had been accused of blocking vital international aid supplies after Nargis struck, killing 140,000 people.

Than Shwe reportedly concluded that making a bid for United might “look bad” at the time, but the revelation that the proposal was even considered is likely to fuel criticism of the regime’s cruelty. The senior general instead ordered the creation of a new multimillion dollar national football league at the same time as aid agencies were reporting that one year on, many survivors of the cyclone still lacked permanent housing, access to clean water, and tools for fishing and agriculture. More:

A last-ditch strategy to save the tiger

Caroline Fraser at Yale Environment 360:

The tiger’s situation has grown desperate in a mere century. A hundred years ago, there were over 100,000 in the wild, with more than 40,000 in India alone. Currently, the total number of tigers worldwide is calculated at fewer than 3,500. Three subspecies — Javan, Bali, and Caspian tigers — vanished during the 20th century. A fourth, the South China tiger, has not been seen in the wild for more than 25 years and is assumed to have gone extinct during the 1990s.

Remaining populations — including 1,850 Bengal tigers and a few hundred each of the Siberian, Indochinese, Malayan, and Sumatran subspecies — are pressed into tiny, isolated protected areas comprising less than 7 percent of their former range. Found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, the Bengal tiger possesses the highest genetic variation, and is considered the key to the species’ survival.

Blocking tiger recovery efforts in India and elsewhere is the black market in the animal’s body parts. Although the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies cooperated with conservation efforts by removing tiger bone from their pharmacopeia in 1993, skins still sell for up to $35,000, and organs and body parts — bones, whiskers, eyeballs, penises, paws, claws — are snapped up as souvenirs or ingredients of traditional Asian medicine. Tiger is occasionally served at restaurants in Hanoi and Beijing, where rare dishes denote high status. In Russia, the uber-wealthy have acquired a taste for tiger pelts as home décor; in Sumatra, magic spells require tiger parts. More:

Aung San Suu Kyi: I was both prisoner and maintenance woman

Jack Davies from Rangoon in The Guardian:

As she poses politely for photos, the Guardian asks who the golden bust behind her represents. “It’s supposed to be me,” she says. “I wish people wouldn’t make busts or posters of me, it is a very strange thing to be looking at yourself all the time. It’s not like this at my house, I promise you. I have pictures of my children.”

The building is filled to overflowing; the noise of a hundred conversations reverberate off the peeling wars and concrete floors. Today, there are more people than chairs, and those left without crouch against walls.

Across the road, perched on conspicuous orange motorbikes, the government’s spies are kept busy, watching her party headquarters through camera lenses and binoculars. But Aung San Suu Kyi is unconcerned about the attention from the military’s special branch. They will be her companion every day she is free.

“That is for them to worry about. I can only do what I feel I need to do, what I can do for the people of Burma,” she says. “They will follow me, I cannot stop that. I cannot worry.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is 65, but looks 20 years younger. A hint of grey at her temples is the only physical sign of the strains of two decades spent resisting a brutal military regime. She has a piercing gaze, which rarely moves from her interrogator, and her response is deliberate when pushed about the government’s overt, hostile attention. She is not frightened that she could be detained again – a fate that has befallen her for 15 of the last 21 years. More:

India, Burma and Suu Kyi

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri in Hindustan Times:

PV Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister is said to have made the decision to reverse India’s support for the elected but never enthroned ruler of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. It was not a decision lightly made: national interest in its hardest form shaped his view. Kashmir was in flames, India had to denude the Northeast of troops, but doing so would give free rein to the Naga insurgency. The solution: persuade the generals in Yangon (earlier Rangoon) to deny the rebels safe haven. Their price: end India’s support for Suu Kyi.

The episode was representative of two strands of New Delhi’s Look Near East Policy. One, the most important stake India has in Myanmar is its role in the stability and, one day, full integration of the northeastern states into the Indian milieu. Two, India believes a policy of quiet engagement with Myanmar eventually yields results.

India has little patience for the international community’s Myanmar caricature. There is Suu Kyi, the Democratic Beauty. There are the generals, the Despotic Beasts. And in between there are only rapacious Chinese businessmen, ethnic freedom fighters and gentle Buddhist monks.

Myanmar is a matter of greater nuance.

One, Suu Kyi and the generals are two sides of the dominant ethnic Burmese elite. If the junta has kept her alive, it is because they still see her, daughter of the late comrade-in-arms Aung San, as someone they can do business with. The real question has been: under what circumstances do we talk? More:

Aung San Suu Kyi aims for peaceful revolution

From BBC:

Two days after being freed from house arrest, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her aim is for a peaceful revolution in Burma.

Speaking to the BBC at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy, she said she was sure democracy would come to Burma eventually, although she did not know how long it would take.

She said she would take any opportunity to speak to ruling generals.

Her release came six days after Burma held its first election in 20 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the last election overwhelmingly but was never allowed to take power.

This poll was won by the biggest military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), but denounced by the West as being neither free nor fair. More:

She’s free

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released by Myanmar’s military government on Saturday, November 13 after her latest term of detention expired. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate was released after her latest round of detention of seven and a half years.

Read the AP wire story (via New York Times) here.

She might have been the most famous, but Aung San Suu Kyi is not Burma’s only political prisoner. The BBC says there could be over 2,000 political prisoners in Buma. Read that story here.

For full coverage, visit The Irrawaddy website

Watch an Al-Jazeera video on Myanmar’s democratic icon

We hear you Michael Aris, loud and clear

Amartya Sen takes India to task for tolerating tyranny in Burma and asks the world to call the bluff on its sham election. In Outlook.

It is difficult for me to talk about Burma without a deep sense of nostalgia. My earliest memories are all of Burma, where I grew up between the ages of three and six. My father was a visiting professor at the Agricultural College in Mandalay, on leave from Dhaka University. My first memory of striking natural beauty is that of sunrise over the Maymyo hills seen from our wooden house at the eastern edge of Mandalay. It was a thrilling sight even for a young boy. My first recollections of warm human relations stretching beyond my own family are also of kindly Burmese society. Mandalay was a lively city in the 1930s, and Burma a magically beautiful country. The richness of the land and the enormous capacity of the Burmese people to be happy and friendly shone brightly through the restraining lid of British colonialism. more

Aung San Suu Kyi’s first day of freedom. The Guardian newspaper has a photofeature here

Aung San Suu Kyi keeps her people, and the junta, waiting one more night

Jack Davies in Rangoon in The Guardian:

After seven years under house arrest and 15 of the last 21 incarcerated in some form by Burma’s military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi today chose one last night of imprisonment so that she might walk truly free.

As speculation over her imminent release reached fever pitch in her home city of Rangoon, word spread that military officials had visited her house and that the order had been signed authorising her immediate release.

Mid-afternoon Burma time, the Guardian understands, the 65-year-old was told she was free to leave the two-storey lakeside villa which the junta had made her prison for most of this decade.

Attached to her release, the military sought to impose strict conditions, understood to be restrictions on where she could travel within Burma, and with whom she could meet. More:

Aung San Suu Kyi: the private photo album

Knight of the Generals?

Shashi Tharoor in The Times of India:

As stage-managed elections ratify the consequences of three decades of military rule in Myanmar, the perspective from its neighbour India may help explain why there is continued international acceptance of the country’s long-ruling junta.

Burma was ruled as part of Britain’s Indian empire until 1935, and the links between the two countries remained strong after Burma gained its independence in 1947. An Indian business community thrived in Burma’s major cities, and cultural and political affinities were well established. India’s nationalist leader and first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a close friend of the Burmese nationalist hero Aung San, whose daughter, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, studied in New Delhi.

For many years, India was unambiguously on the side of democracy, freedom and human rights in Burma – and in ways more tangible than the rhetoric of the regime’s western critics. When the generals suppressed the popular uprising of 1988, nullified the overwhelming election victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1990, shot students, and arrested the newly-elected leaders, India’s government initially reacted as most Indians would have wanted. India gave asylum to fleeing students and a base for their resistance movement (along with some financial help), and supported a newspaper and a radio station that propagated the democratic voice. More:

Burma’s sham election

A Reuters report: Two military-backed parties looked set to prevail on Monday in Myanmar’s first election in 20 years, a day after a choreographed vote marred by fraud charges and apathy, and condemned as flawed by Washington and London. Complex election rules thwarted any chance of a pro-democracy upset as Myanmar ends half a century of direct army rule. State TV said voters “freely and happily” cast ballots, but witness accounts suggested low turn-out and voting irregularities. More:

If freed, Suu Kyi would face new political landscape

From The Irrawaddy:

If the country’s military leaders are to be believed, the 65-year-old Nobel laureate is due to be released from her current seven-year spell of house arrest on Nov. 13.

But the political landscape that Suu Kyi will face will be different from what she encountered during the two previous times she was freed from house arrest, the first in July 1995, and the second in May 2002. This nemesis of Burma’s military leaders has spent over 14 years as a prisoner in her lakeside home in Rangoon, the former capital, since July 1989.

This time, she will no longer have the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party she helped found in 1988, as a legitimate body to turn to. The NLD was banned this year for deciding to boycott the November poll. More:

After 10 years, Aung San Suu Kyi’s son prepares for reunion

From The Independent:

One of Aung San Suu Kyi’s sons has travelled to Bangkok in order to apply for a Burmese visa, so he can visit the detained opposition leader for the first time in 10 years – if she is freed from house arrest after tomorrow’s election.

Kim Aris, 33 – one of two sons of Ms Suu Kyi, 65, and her late husband, British academic Michael Aris – flew to the Thai capital from Britain. The last time he saw his mother was in December 2000 and previous visa applications have all failed.

Nyan Win, Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyer, told The Independent last night: “[She] is expecting to be released. She is making some preparations. She is planning meetings with the media and how she will handle her security.” The story of Ms Suu Kyi’s relationship with Mr Aris and her enforced isolation from her children is one of the many sad sub-plots of Burma’s decades-long struggle for democracy. More:

A guarded optimism in Burma as vote nears

From the New York Times:

During nearly five decades of military dictatorship, the impoverished population of Myanmar has become accustomed to hearing soldiers shout orders. And now comes a more unusual request from the ruling generals: Vote!

“Every citizen who values democracy and wants democratic rule must cast their votes without fail,” says a daily exhortation running in the state news media that urges voters to choose “candidates correctly.”

The national elections to be held here on Sunday are the first since an effort to form a Parliament 20 years ago was aborted by the military because it lost in a landslide. Judging from the junta’s enthusiasm, the generals appear confident that this time they will come out on top.

Many citizens of Myanmar, formerly Burma, both inside and outside the country dismiss the elections as a sham, an empty exercise in legitimizing the continued rule of the military, which will appoint a quarter of the members of the Parliament. There have been no campaign debates, the government has barred outside election monitors, the news media are heavily censored and parties must obtain permission to hold election rallies weeks in advance. More:

Inside Burma: Last call for the resistance: In Global Post

Will Aung San Suu Kyi be freed at last?

Aung Zaw is the founder and editor of the Irrawaddy Magazine, on Asia Sentinel:

Unnamed official sources in Burma have recently said that Aung San Suu Kyi will be released from house arrest on Nov. 13, when her current period of detention is due to expire. But is the Burmese regime really planning to free the detained Nobel Peace Prize winner? The answer to this question very much depends on one person: Senior General Than Shwe.

If Suu Kyi is released in November, it will not be before next month’s election. Pro-regime parties are expected to engineer a victory in the polls, which raises further questions about how Suu Kyi will respond to this situation if she is allowed to leave her home.

For the regime’s paramount leader, this is the crucial issue. He regards Suu Kyi as a potential threat to national security, and if he believes that she will continue to challenge his rule after she is freed, he will almost certainly find some pretext to extend her detention indefinitely. More: