Sunday, August 14, 2011

Suu Kyi’s visit to Pegu probes limits of political space

Sunday, 14 August 2011 18:31 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - White-shirted youth bodyguards accompanied Aung San Suu Kyi on a one-day political trip out of Rangoon that helped the pro-democracy leader test her political room to maneuver.

Little fanfare surrounded the day trip of the secretary general of the National League for Democracy to Pegu (Bago) to open two libraries and offer a donation to thousands of victims of flooding in the region.

Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied by National League for Democracy members, on a visit to Pegu, Sunday, August 14, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

On the face of it, the purpose of the visit to Pegu was to open two libraries set up by her party and named in her honour, part of her party’s drive to help empower young people in a country where the educational system has suffered for decades.

The Aung San Jarmon libraries are physically small but stuffed with thousands of books on everything from poetry to politics to novels. Book lovers can read in the library or use tickets to borrow the books. As the printed prospectus of the libraries make clear, they are aimed to give young people an opportunity to grow and avoid bars, billiard parlours and video game cafes.

As Suu Kyi said in her speech, she stressed the importance of reading and how it was necessary to help young people become mentally strong. One of the programmes of her party is to provide educational help, and Suu Kyi herself has spent much time talking and giving speeches to youth. She, herself, is a voracious reader.

But the trip was also an opportunity to test the water with the Burmese government. Since her release from house arrest last November, fears have been voiced for her safety if she travels outside of Rangoon due to violence she and her supporters experienced in Depayin in May 2003.At least 70 people associated with her party were killed by a government-sponsored mob and Suu Kyi appeared lucky to escape. She was arrested shortly after.

The short trip to Pegu, leaving by road at 5:45 a.m. and returning at about 5 p.m. went off without incident. She was able to open the libraries, visit monasteries, and offer aid to flood victims.

Recent meetings with Aung Kyi, a government minister, are credited with smoothing the way.

Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) General Secretary Dr. Naing Aung said Suu Kyi made the trip after meeting with Minister Aung Kyi, which indicated she had “negotiated” with the authorities to allow her visit.

The exiled commentator said that it was good that as a public leader she keeps in touch with the grassroots of the party and the people. He said the result of this first political trip will depend on the range and number of people she meets, including young NLD members.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s political trips
1989 January 14

Aung San Suu Kyi went to Maubin in Irrawaddy Division via a river route for canvassing. The Maubin Township Law and Order Restoration Council ordered the residents not to welcome her; not to wave their hands to greet her; not to give her bouquets of flowers; not to clap and not to leave their homes.
1989 February 11

She travelled to Panglong in Shan State and met with ethnic political parties. She read the ‘New Democratic Union Declaration’ that mentioned about the NLD’s policies and general tasks in front of the Panglong pillar in the Union Square.
1989 April 5

Suu Kyi, accompanied by former NLD vice chairman Kyi Maung, confronts Captain Myint Oo who ordered six soldiers to aim their guns at Suu Kyi in Danuphyu in Irrawaddy Division. Two superior military officers who are captains ordered the soldiers not to shoot.
1989 April 27

Suu Kyi went to Kachin State for canvassing. During her trip, she met with the canvassers of Myitkyina NLD and the residents. Then she visited the office of the Kachin National Democratic Congress and discussed and exchanged ideas with ethnic leaders to establish a ‘Union’ country.
1989 and 1998

She attempted to visit the Irrawaddy Division in 1989 and 1998. But she was prevented by the authorities on her way.
1996, March 13

When she was about to go to Mandalay, the authorities removed a railway carriage in which Suu Kyi would sit, saying the carriage needed to be repaired.
1998 July 23

Suu Kyi and Tin Oo tried to travel to the Pegu Division and Irrawaddy Division in July and August 1998, but were prevented by the authorities. On July 23, armed troops besieged Suu Kyi and her colleagues near Htandapin in Rangoon Division for 13 days.
2000 August 24

Suu Kyi was prevented by the authorities from travelling to Dallah, on the opposite site of the river from Rangoon. She was temporarily detained and then sent back to her home on September 2.
2000 September 21

Suu Kyi tried to go to Mandalay, but the authorities did not allow her to get of the train at Rangoon Station. Then she was sent back to her home and was put under house arrest for nearly two years.
2003 April 10

She went to Matupi in Chin State as a part of canvassing in upper Burma. Although her trip was successful, Salai Hla Moe who was given the responsibility of Suu Kyi’s security, Matupi Township NLD secretary Salai Aung Htan and NLD youth in charge Salai Par Htan were arrested after the trip.
2003 May 30

During the trip for canvassing in upper Burma, a motorcade carrying Suu Kyi was attacked near Kyi Village in Depayin Township in Sagaing Division by a mob. Her driver Kyaw Soe Lin managed to drive the car and escape from the mob. But Suu Kyi was arrested in Yay-U and sent to Insein Prison. Then she was placed under house arrest.

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