This year’s Brighton Festival Guest Director – Aung San Suu Kyi brought her message for peace to the UK. Her dedicated plea for peace in Burma is highlighted by the program which is built around her message ‘use your liberty to promote ours’. This years festival presents a political edge and focus on global issues. Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her passionately fought battle for democracy in Burma.
“It is wonderful too to know that there is such support for the effort to bring democracy and freedom to Burma, for which the Burmese people have been diligently working for so long.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
She urged people involved in the festival to promote the message of world peace a plea which arts organisers said had been taken to the heart of the event.
The Burmese military authorities released the Nobel Peace Prize winner from house arrest on 13 November last year.
She had been detained for 15 of the previous 21 years.
In May 2009 it was a different story. Amid signs that, one way or another, the country’s military rulers intended to force her to give up her home.
The Washington Post explained that the trial stemed from an incident involving a U.S. citizen, identified as John Yettaw, who swam across Rangoon’s picturesque Lake Inya last week to reach Suu Kyi’s lakefront bungalow and allegedly stayed there one or two nights. On Thursday, she was taken to Rangoon’s Insein prison on charges of violating the terms of her detention by hosting a foreigner, which could bring a three- to five-year prison term, according to Burmese opposition officials. The charges came just days before Suu Kyi’s six-year term under house arrest is due to expire.
A little-known lawsuit filed by Suu Kyi’s estranged older brother, a U.S. citizen, poses another threat. In 2001, Aung San Oo demanded ownership of half of the two-story house that had been the property of their mother. A Burmese court suspended the case because foreigners may not own property in Burma, but sources in Rangoon have indicated in recent weeks that the suit may be revived. The courts in Burma are completely under the control of the military junta.
Aung Lin Htut, the former deputy chief of mission for the Burmese Embassy in Washington, said in a recent interview that the lawsuit was generated by the Burmese government. The ambassador at the time, U Tin Win, received an order from Rangoon to obtain San Oo’s signature on the lawsuit in exchange for promises of business opportunities for his wife, a Burmese national, and her family, Lin Htut said.
“When Aung San Oo returned these papers with his signature, the ambassador checked them carefully, signed his signature to confirm and sent it back to General Than Shwe through the diplomatic pouch,” said Lin Htut, who defected in 2005 and now lives in Maryland.
Than Shwe is Burma’s head of state. San Oo, who had a home in San Diego at the time of the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment; there are reports he is now living in Burma. Irrawaddy, a Burmese opposition magazine published in Thailand, reported in 2005 that he was building a home in Pagan and living in a government guesthouse near his sister’s home.
Lin Htut, who said he still keeps in contact with high-level sources in Burma, said Than Shwe has made it clear to colleagues that he has little desire to allow Suu Kyi’s detention to end, viewing her release as “the last card” he can play in his dealings with the rest of the world.
Than Shwe is especially wary of freeing her now, as the junta prepares to hold fresh elections in 2010 under a new constitution that it says will create a “disciplined democracy,” including a legislature with 25 percent of the seats reserved for members of the military.
Dozens of opponents of the government have been rounded up in recent months, and many have been given long sentences. Critics contend that the authorities are trying to remove from circulation anyone who could become a focal point of opposition.
The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, recently issued a statement saying it would consider participating in the election, but only if Suu Kyi was freed, the constitution was amended and the elections were free and fair. The party won a landslide victory in 1990 that the military refused to recognize, and Suu Kyi has been under detention for 13 of the 19 years since then.
Suu Kyi, 63, was said to be in poor health having been treated for dehydration and low blood pressure. For the last six years, her only regular visitor has been her doctor, who has been allowed to see her once a month, but he has also been held for questioning.
The charges against Suu Kyi were swiftly condemned by many Western leaders, and President Obama is expected to speak about her treatment when he renews an investment ban on Burma today. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters the charges are “baseless,” and she called on Burmese authorities to release Suu Kyi “immediately and unconditionally, along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held.”
Little is known about what motivated Yettaw, a 53-year-old resident of Falcon, Mo., to visit Suu Kyi’s home. His ex-wife told the Associated Press that he said he had to travel to Asia, leaving behind a 10-year-old and three teenagers with friends, to work on a psychological paper on forgiveness. – Washington Post and Joe Blog.
ArtLyst will be covering full festival roundups as well as events coverage throught the festival.