Aung San Suu Kyi


Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader has spent the majority of the last eighteen years under house arrest in her home in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) and in May 2007 her detention was extended for another year. As Aung San Suu Kyi has also published many books, including Freedom From Fear (1991), Letters from Burma (1997) and The Voice of Hope (1997), she was elected an Honorary Member of English PEN. We have consistently protested her detention and called for her unconditional release.

The daughter of Burma’s independence hero General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi became the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988 following her tireless campaigning throughout the country to protest against military rule. The military regime responded to the uprising with brute force, killing up to 5,000 demonstrators. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) seized power in a military coup, while Aung San Suu Kyi was detained and placed under house arrest until 1995. In 1990, the NLD won a landslide victory but the military regime refused to relinquish power. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest again between 2000 and 2002. After her release she engaged in talks with the SPDC and began touring the country, garnering support for her party until her convoy was attacked and she was forced back into detention in May 2003. She has said that she spends her time in detention meditating, studying and writing.

During the recent 2007 demonstrations in Burma, the largest since 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi was seen in public for the first time since 2003 when she left her house to greet and pray with Buddhist monks outside her gate. In the following weeks, she was permitted to meet with Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Special Envoy. At the end of October, a meeting took place between Aung San Suu Kyi and a liaison minister of the SPDC, Aung Kyi.

In a statement on 8 November, Aung San Suu Kyi said:

‘I wish to thank all those who have stood by my side all this time, both inside and outside my country. I am also grateful to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in my country.

I welcome the appointment on 8 October of Minister Aung Kyi as Minister for Relations. Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions. I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon as that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible.

In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the Government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard.

In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the members of my party and in my position as General Secretary, I will be guided by the policies and wishes of the National League for Democracy. However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.

To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively and invite the Government and all relevant parties to join me in this spirit.

I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbours and fellow ASEAN members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community.’

English PEN recently organised an event in celebration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s astounding courage and paying tribute to other lesser known Burmese writers who have been persecuted and imprisoned. An open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi, reinforcing the message ‘We are with you’,  was read aloud at the event and signed by all those who attended. To see a copy of the open letter please click here

English PEN members are encouraged to send personal appeals calling for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release to the representative of the Myanmar Government in the UK:

His Excellency U Nay Win
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
19A Charles St
Berkeley Square
London W1J 5DX

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