Marking the 65th Birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi
This weekend protestors planted saplings in Burma, flash mobs formed in Great Britain, supporters held a solidarity march in Washington, D.C., and activists from nearly thirty countries voluntarily confined themselves to their houses for 24-hours— all in honor of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday. She has been under house arrest since being detained during the 1990 elections in which she was elected Prime Minster.
Here on Sampsonia Way, City of Asylum writer-in-residence Khet Mar and her family marked the occasion by drawing and painting portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“The boys are growing up among the people who love and respect Aung San Suu Kyi,” Khet Mar said. “I think it is important for the boys to know about a woman who loves her country very much. They need to know her courage and her sacrifice for Burmese people.
Sampsonia Way is dedicating its July issue to Burma and the stories of activists, journalists, and leaders who are—despite arrest, torture, and exile—speaking out against one of the most repressive regimes in the world. The issue will feature a story about journalists in exile, including Maung Yit and a portrait of the Burmese refugee community in Pittsburgh.
One refugee, who asked his name to be withheld because he still has family in Burma, said Aung San Suu Kyi taught him what democracy really meant. Before1988 when she returned to Burma after studying and working abroad, he said the only information about democracy he had access to was in government-approved publications. These publications cited Burma and China as democracies—both countries that violently repress opposition.
“She taught us we are human,” he said. “The men in uniforms are human and we are human and we have the right to walk around the street in demonstration.” The same year Aung San Suu Kyi joined the pro-democracy movement, he decided to protest with a group of students in Rangoon. There he saw his friends gunned downed by the Burmese military. He fled Burma in 2002, eventually settling in Pittsburgh.
“I am really sad because I lost my family,” he said. “But I am 47-years-old and alone in Pittsburgh and she is 65-years-old and alone in Burma so I can’t have hard feelings.”
He added, “She gives me light, before her my mind was dark.”
Read Elizabeth’s bio.