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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Travels Outside Rangoon Despite Regime’s Threats

By Burma Partnership  •  July 4, 2011

Today, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi flew to the ancient city of Bagan in Mandalay Division for a personal trip with her son Kim Aris, marking her first time outside of Rangoon since her release from house arrest in November last year. The first of the leader’s planned trips, it came less than a week after the regime issued threats against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD).

On 28 June, Daw Suu and NLD Chairman U Aung Shwe received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs pressuring the party to cease their “unlawful” activities. State-run New Light of Myanmar followed up the letter with a commentary quoting the threatening letter: “If they really want to accept and practice democracy effectively, they are to stop such acts that can harm peace and stability and the rule of law as well as the unity among the people including monks and service personnel.”

Many have speculated that the letter is an effort on the part of the military regime to signal looming plans to crack down on NLD activities and those of the democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In recent months, she has delivered numerous speeches at important regional and international forums, including the recent video message at the US House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in support of the calls for a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma, and two sessions for the BBC’s Reith Lectures. Daw Suu has also held numerous meetings with her party members and youths from across the country.

Seemingly prompted by these actions, the regime issued possible threats veiled as warnings to the party and its leader, stating, “We are deeply concerned that if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi makes trips to countryside regions, there may be chaos and riots, as evidenced by previous incidents.”

Such a warning refers to the 2003 Depayin Massacre, in which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD convoy was attacked by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (the predecessor to the Union Solidarity and Development Party that now holds over 77% of the parliamentary seats). Over 100 individuals died in the attack, many of whom were NLD members and youths who sought to protect the democracy leader. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi narrowly escaped with her life but was immediately arrested and detained.

The New Light of Myanmar commentary continues, accusing the party of “trying to politically test the patience of the government that shows its benevolent attitude by not taking action against it.” Testing the patience of NLD leaders, the letter has compelled the NLD to request a meeting with the Home Affairs Minister to “negotiate for the rule of law.” Certainly, as a citizen unconditionally released from what was an unlawful house arrest and the democratically elected leader of the country, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has a right to travel as she wishes throughout Burma. Furthermore, the NLD heavily protests against the accusations that they are causing “harm [to] peace and stability and the rule of law.” NLD’s response noted that they “are an organisation that genuinely wishes for the rule of law and are constantly striving to achieve national reconciliation.”

The regime clearly feels that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD, and the extent of their local and international support, pose a threat to its tightly controlled grip on power. With memories of the recent revolutions of the Arab Spring, the regime cannot afford to have Daw Suu and the NLD taking to the streets and rallying mass public support.

U Kyaw Win, who recently defected as Deputy Chief of Burma’s Embassy in the US, said that the regime’s threats “must be taken seriously.” With many of the architects of the Depayin Massacre still in the regime’s leadership, further violence against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD is sadly a very real possibility. The international community must therefore call on the regime to take responsibility for the safety of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD members and their supporters. As noted by the Lady herself, “it is the right of every citizen of Burma to have her security assured by the government.”

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