Burma will be in the news over the next few weeks. November 7th is the 'official' election day – an election in which the party that won the previous election (1990) is both boycotting and ineligible to run. This is primarily because its leadership including Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has been declared criminal for protesting the military dictatorship's harsh tyranny and its decision to over-rule the electorate's unanimous support for Suu Kyi as their leader.
November 13th is the date when Aung San Sui Kyi is scheduled to be released from her current house arrest, something she has endured in one form or another for most of the past 15 years.
On the other side of the ravine (pictured above) high in the hills of Northern Thailand the Burmese military patrol, their weapons in prominent display. My daughter Theressa tells me these young men (boys really) will occasionally gesture to come over. Laughing perhaps at what their bullets or the landmine- strewn valley would do to the unsuspecting. Theressa has been working on and off over the past 5 years in one of the many refugee camps just inside the Thai border. She is nonchalant. I am more afraid than I am willing to admit – you can almost reach out and touch these errand boys of impetuous, erratic and ruthless power.
Burma is a forgotten country. You will notice many of the media reports now refer to the country as Myanmar – a deliberate re-branding by the military dictatorship to deflect what the UN Human Rights Council states is a, pattern of gross and systemic violation of human rights. There are only minor expressions of concern from the global community. As long as China needs Burma's natural resources and both China and India want to erect an oil pipeline across Burma, the military seems assured of few international repercussions. Canada is an exception – its stand and boycott is unequivocal.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been a symbol of of resistance to the longstanding brutal dictatorship of the Burmese military. Her resistance follows in the footsteps of leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh who sought an end to violent power using non-violent methods.
Alan Clement a journalist and former Buddhist monk who co-wrote the Voice of Hope with Suu Kyi described her movement as a spiritual revolution with a political front. In a Georgia Strait interview he explained: "She is communicating a message that the only hope we have for our survival is through the ability to learn the power to talk to each other. It's not a new idea but she she is manifesting it in the worst of conditions. She is saying, 'I am going to confront you with the power of kindness over cruelty, dialogue over destruction and decency over death.' "
There is much we can all learn from Suu Kyi and the brave resistance of the Burmese people. If you are curious and want to learn more:
Check out the Georgia Strait's profile of Suu Kyi and Alan Clement a former Buddhist monk now living in Vancouver. He has just come into possession of 50 hours of tapes Suu Kyi and other resistance leaders.
Subscribe to Irrawaddy News for up to date coverage of events in Burma and Southeast Asia
Read Karen Connolly's book, multi – award winning, The Lizard Cage – a thinly veiled account of Burma today. Karen is one of Canada's greatest writer, ever, and this book proves it.
Check out my daughter Theressa's blogsite on her work with Shan refugees. There are links to recent articles on Burma. She works closely with the Shan refugee camp, the local orphanage and Buddhist temple and directs 100% of all contribution to them.
Check out the Shan camp's new website. Theressa has raised the funds to outfit the camp with computers and she continues to pay the salary of a computer instructor for the children who live there.
The picture above frames the valley defining the border between Thailand and Burma. The blue sign on the tree says, With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. That I now understand has nothing to do with guns or political leadership. It refers to what Adam Kahane in his new book Power and Love observes is the 'difficult and dangerous task of moving beyond aggressive war and submissive peace.'
And which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi embodies at great personal sacrifice. More in my next post.