Friday, October 05, 2007

Suu Kyi Legend Grows, And So May Her Prospects

The Washington Post has an editorial this morning saying the situation in Burma seems to have returned to the squalid normalcy predating the uprising that began in August, following last week's crackdown by the military junta on the Buddhist monks and ordinary people who marched by many thousands in the streets of Rangoon and other cities.

But the London Times, which with the on-the-spot reporting of Kenneth Denby in Rangoon has had the best coverage of the "Saffron Revolution" by far, doesn't quite think so. Denby writes this morning that following the visit of the United Nations emissary, Ibrahim Gambari, the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, has made a conditional offer to meet with the pro-democracy leader, the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

State television announced the offer last night in these words: "Senior Gen. Than Shwe said during his meeting with Mr. Gambari that Madame Aung San Suu Kyi has been pushing four things -- confrontation, utter devastation, economic sanctions or other sanctions. If she abandons those causes, Senior Gen. Thas Shwe told Mr. Gambari that he will personally meet Madame Aung San Suu Kyi."

Denby calls this a hint of compromise. But he says Suu Kyi has not yet responded and that persons close to her say that when she does, she wants to do so on state television. The sources also noted that Suu Kyi denies she has been advocating any of these things, since she began her democracy campaign nearly 20 years ago.

At present, hundreds of Burmese police surround the modest home where Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, the street is closed to traffic and two Navy boats patrol off shore. All this for one advocate of democracy. You can see how dangerous she is.

Despite the Post editorial, there are a few other straws in the wind that the Burmese situation has not returned to the status quo, and that change may be in the offing.

For one thing, Gambari was able to meet, and be pictured with, Suu Kyi both before and after his meeting with Shwe, and it was clear during his visit that she was definitely part of the equation in any examination of the future of Burma. (After all, she is the popularly-elected leader, by an 80% majority, an election result the junta has long ignored). Pictures of Suu Kyi were later shown on state television for the first time in four years.

There also are stirrings from both India and China of a different attitude toward the situation in Burma. The Indian government issued a statement last night calling for the junta to release Suu Kyi from house arrest.

The Chinese government has said nothing as plain as that, simply expressing a hope for reconciliation. But in a lengthy article in the American journal Foreign Affairs, entitled, "Asia's Foreign Crisis, A New Approach to Burma," the authors, Michael Green and Derek Mitchell. report that Burma, under the junta, "has become a serious threat to the security of its neighbors."

They say that refugees spilling over into India, Thailand and China and a rampant narcotics trade have alarmed officials in provinces bordering Burma, and that officials in China's Yunnan province have urged Beijing to intercede to resolve these problems.

Certainly, there has been quite a bit of "spillover" in recent weeks, with hundreds of monks and others fleeing the country, and many embarrassing pictures and accounts of the uprising circulating out of Burma, accounts of beatings of monks, and so forth, despite attempts by the junta to seize Internet facilities and stop the flow of information.

Associated Press correspondent Michael Casey in Bangkok had a long story yesterday headlined, "Suu Kyi's Iconic Status Increases." In it, he described how she has become a hero in much of the world comparable in people's minds with such other great resisters to tyranny as Nelson Mandela, Mohandas K. Gandhi and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A blurry photograph of Suu Kyi behind stone-faced riot police during the recent protests against (Burma's) military junta was splashed on front pages around the world and gave a surge of hope to countrymen demanding an end to 45 years of rule by generals," Casey wrote.

"By praying with monks who marched despite the threat of bullets, by silently acknowledging demonstrators shouting her name, by blessing with her steely gaze the biggest anti-junta protests in two decades, the tiny woman nicknamed "the Lady" has become more of a democratic icon than ever."

Casey quotes Monique Skidmore, a Burma expert at Australian National University, as saying, "Aung San Suu Kyi is not only the inspiration for the Burmese to bear their ongoing suffering...She alone continues to command the moral and political legitimacy of the nation."

History tells us that when people rise in the streets as they did in recent weeks in Burma, and they are led by such an inspirational figure, it is correct to think there is more than a small chance for fundamental change.

--

There is one word that defines Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, after the highly revealing article about his travel expenses with campaign contributions by L.A. Times Sacramento correspondent Nancy Vogel, and that word is CROOK. Nunez has an imaginative excuse, that he is out learning about the issues he faces at home in the Legislature, but there is another appropriate word for his explanation: LIAR.

Nunez, like certain Assembly Speakers before him, such as Herb Wesson and Bob Hertzberg, has catered to nearly every lobbyist who gives him money and made of the Legislature an abombination. And all we apparently can do about it is hope that he disappears in the Barcelona sewers, although for the likes of him that would be too good an ending. Nunez has gone farther than either Wesson or Hertzberg toward becoming utterly corrupt.

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