I first visited Burma over 18 years ago. At that time I was ignorant of the tragic recent history of that country and of the struggle of the Burmese people against the tyrants who had wielded control since a 1962 coup.
I was moved beyond words by what I experienced and learned during that first visit. The warmth and sincerity of the people, the rich and diverse culture, the powerful spirituality, were in sharp contrast with the brutality of the government.
A year and a half after my visit, during peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations, the military regime massacred thousands of their own people - mostly young students. Sources estimate that between 3000 and 10,000 were killed. A year later, similar events unfolded in China's Tiananmen Square. Because TV cameras happened to be in Beijing for a state visit by Gorbachev, the world saw what happened, and the world has not forgotten.
There were no TV cameras in Burma in August of 1988. As a result, few people are aware of what happened - and that was but one event in what is now a 40 year struggle.
What people do know about Burma, they know largely because of one person - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the opposition leader who has dedicated her life - under great sacrifice - to the struggle of her people. In 1991, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Today she holds the distinction of being the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Why am I writing this now?
On June 19th, 2005, Aung San Suu Kyi will turn 60 years old. In commemoration of this milestone, and as a way of increasing awareness, a number of activities and actions are being planned for the weekend of June 17th-19th. I'm asking you to do two things (actually, only one if you're not in the San Francisco Bay Area):
1. Candles for Burma Campaign
This morning, we at Ethical Traveler launched a web site were you can upload photographic birthday greetings for Aung San Suu Kyi. Please have a look, consider participating, and spread the word.
2. June 19th - Save the Date
In solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi, I'll be placing myself under "house arrest" on June 19th. I'll be hosting an event in San Francisco that evening - Sunday June 19th from 5:00p - 8:00p - with speakers, short films, Burmese music and of course... Burmese food! More info to come on this but please mark your calendars; I really hope you can make it.
For more information please see:
GLOBAL DAYS OF ACTION
June 17th and 19th, 2005
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - "Hero File" (bio/chronology)
Ethical Traveler - Candles for Burma
Below is today's press release from the US Campaign for Burma, the organization spearheading the events around Suu Kyi' birthday.
In addition to what's included there, note that:
- Stephen Kent will be featuring Burma - music and politics - on his Music of the World radio show on KPFA on June 16, sometime between 10a and 12p PST.
- Jeff Greenwald will be writing an Op-Ed piece about Burma on the occasion of Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday to be published in the San Francisco Chronicle on or around June 19.
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U S C A M P A I G N F O R B U R M A
For Immediate Release: May 20th, 2005
Contact: Aung Din and Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 223 0300
30 Days to the 60th Birthday of World's Only Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize
Campaign to Honor Aung San Suu Kyi Growing Rapidly As Activities Planned in US, Asia, Europe, Africa
(Washington, DC) A global effort to honor the world's only imprisoned Nobel
Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi on her 60th birthday has gained rapid momentum over the past month as scores of individuals and organizations have signed up to participate in activities around the world.
The effort is modeled on global demonstrations and rallies in 1988 to free
former South African leader Nelson Mandela when he was still imprisoned on
A brief summary of activities taking place:
--US Campaign for Burma has collected pledges for 6,000 birthday cards for
Aung San Suu Kyi on her 60th birthday. USCB will attempt to "deliver" these cards to the Burmese embassy at a demonstration to be held on June 17th.
--The city of Edinburgh, Scotland will award Aung San Suu Kyi its "Freedom
of the City" award.
--Protests are planned in front of 16 embassies and consulates of Burma's
military regime, in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, South
Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Switzerland and Thailand.
--The organization WITNESS, founded by musician Peter Gabriel, will release a new film on the plight of internally displaced persons in eastern Burma.
--A major university in Thailand will award Aung San Suu Kyi an honorary
--The city and county of San Francisco have officially declared June 19th
"Aung San Suu Kyi Day". The cities of Berkeley and San Jose are considering similar measures.
--60 individuals have pledged to "Arrest themselves" at home for 24 hours in
solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi. While at home, they will host "House
Arrest Parties" to raise awareness and funds for the international struggle
for human rights and democracy in Burma.
--Irish musicians Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan released a press release
stating that he planned to release a new song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi
during her birthday celebrations.
--In the United States, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and leading US Senators will host an event dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi.
--Two women organizations, San Francisco-based "Burmese American Women's Association" and New York-based "Women on the Move for Burma" are hosting events to honor Aung San Suu Kyi's 60th birthday. Burmese democracy activists in Korea and Japan are also planning to hold the events on June 19th, 2005 in Seoul and Tokyo.
Since 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi has led an international campaign to end over
40 years of brutal military rule in the Southeast Asian country of Burma.
After a nationwide uprising was crushed in 1988, she led her political party
the National League for Democracy to an 82% victory in a national election
in 1990. The ruling dictatorship refused to recognize the results and has
kept her locked for ten of the past 15 years. In the meantime, Burma's
regime has recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers (far more than any other