It seems impossible that twenty-one years have gone by since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, who won an overwhelming victory (82%) in the elections of 1990, was put under house arrest by the Junta, which failed to recognize her election as the head of the National League for Democracy and future prime minister. To this day the repressive military dictatorship still rules with an iron fist. This past summer Suu Kyi’s house arrest was extended until after the upcoming elections this spring. And just today the National League for Democracy disbanded and refused to participate in the elections, saying that to do so would be to renounce the validity of the last democratic election, something that would undermine their dignity and nullify everything they’ve stood for all these years. As you can imagine, this raises questions about both the future of the Burmese opposition and the credibility of the upcoming vote.
Recently, The New York Times had reported signs that a change is coming to the beleaguered people of Myanmar, but only on the junta’s terms. I have my doubts about any real change, from other sources that tell of the continued persecution, torture, and incarceration (under the worst possible conditions) of 2100 dissidents since the peaceful uprising by Buddhist monks in 2007. This information is widely available on the Internet and I urge you to read it.
Something I had not realized is that during her arrest, Suu Kyi was also awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990. She used her Nobel Peace Prize money (1.3 million US Dollars) to establish a health and education trust for the Burmese people.
As you know, I spent almost four weeks in Myanmar in January of 2007 and reported about these friendly, welcoming people, who are living under such tyranny and deprivation. I did not dare write to those I met, however, nor mention their names on this blog for fear of reprisals due to their association with me, a Westerner.
Here are some pictures that will give you an idea of a country I hope to revisit at the end of this year. I start at the famous Kandawgyi Gardens that James Wilson and I explored when coming back from a visit to Thipaw in the mountains, reached by going on the train over a notoriously high tressle that nearly scared me to death. The gardens were designed by the English at the beautiful Hill Station of Pyin oo Lwin.
First are some shots of the orchids, then the flower gardens and birds:
The next pictures were taken on the all-day boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan
Children playing along the riverbank