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Burma

Guardian article on Burma

badly-written, poorly researched, and simply despicable.  Write a comment in Guardian if you can.

A Myanmar activist at a march in New Delhi to mark Aung San Suu Kyi's 63rd birthday

A Myanmar activist at a march in New Delhi to mark Aung San Suu Kyi’s 63rd birthday Photograph: Gurinder Osan/AP

Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma, is the world’s most famous political prisoner. She has spent the best part of the past 20 years under house arrest, detained by the military dictatorship she opposes. Her current imprisonment began in May 2003, when her convoy was attacked and 70 of her supporters killed by a militia of government-sponsored thugs known darkly as the Masters of Force. She has been confined to her Rangoon home ever since.

Suu Kyi was born into the family that drove Burma’s independence movement: her father was General Aung San, who was murdered by his political rivals in July 1947, shortly after negotiating his country’s independence from Britain. Suu Kyi was pushed into politics in 1988 after thousands of students protesters were gunned down on the streets of Rangoon – when she delivered her inaugural speech at Rangoon’s Shwe Dagon Pagoda on August 26 that year, a crowd of 500,000 came to hear her. A nation held in a headlock by a junta since 1962 fell behind her gutsy message of hope, and she led the NLD to a landslide election victory in May 1990, winning 392 out of 485 seats.

Suu Kyi has always advocated non-violent resistance, but is internationally renowned for her recalcitrance rather than her compliance. When Burma’s military junta annulled the 1990 vote, Suu Kyi reached out to the west, where her allure was underpinned by her beauty and a post-colonial fairytale upbringing – a childhood spent riding with Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi; university years at St Hugh’s, Oxford; a marriage on New Year’s Day 1972 to a brilliant young academic to whom she had been introduced by Lord Gore-Booth. Amnesty International made her a prisoner of conscience, while Vanity Fair dubbed her Burma’s Saint Joan. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel peace prize and India’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru award for international understanding was given the following year. There seemed no limits to her popularity abroad – Gordon Brown, in his book Courage: Eight Portraits, called her “a hero for our times”, profiling Suu Kyi alongside Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Footage of her fiery speeches, made from behind the famous blue gates of her family home on University Avenue, were broadcast across the globe. Portraits of her were seen all over the world, too – most famously one shot by photographer Nic Dunlop, which has Suu Kyi looking defiant, her arms folded, her head turned reluctantly towards the lens (the NLD leader having just snapped at one of Dunlop’s friends who had dared argue the toss with her about Burmese history).

Compilations of Suu Kyi’s writings became bestsellers. Her democracy campaign drew hundreds of thousands of supporters at home and the attention of millions abroad, transforming the issue into the most high-profile postwar protest, barring the anti-apartheid movement.

But despite her international image as a great leader, Suu Kyi has become mute since her arrest in 2003. Twenty years on from her great speech in Rangoon there is nothing but static emanating from her Rangoon home. On the implosion of Burma’s economy that has transformed it into one of the 49 least developed countries in the world, she has not much to say. Uprisings brutally suppressed – like those led by monks in September 2007? No comment. Tropical cyclone Nargis that last May swept away 170,000? Barely a word from Suu Kyi. A jerry-rigged referendum in May on a new constitution that would keep the military in power in perpetuam? No counter or strategy. Only a statement from the NLD that the vote had been “non-inclusive, non-transparent and undemocratic” and therefore a sham – which was self-evident to those who had survived May’s cyclone Nargis only to be frog-marched to the polls at the point of a gun.

While western activists, such as the Burma Campaign UK, have never been more vocal – recently being backed by stars including Ricky Gervais – their focal point, Suu Kyi, has chosen to stay quiet behind the locked gates of her home, even though in previous years her house arrest has not prevented her from venting her anger in written and even filmed statements. She has been unable or unwilling to meet with the ruling Burmese junta or anyone else – refusing even to see UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari in August, during his fruitless six-day visit, the 40th such mission to date. Only the occasional photograph has emerged in recent years, revealing a woman who has, unsurprisingly, given the toll on her of imprisonment and isolation, dramatically aged.

Suu Kyi’s uncharacteristic silence has worried Burma’s pro-democracy activists, lighting up bulletin boards and chat rooms inside the country and wherever the Burmese diaspora has resettled.

“If Suu Kyi has a plan to end 20 years of political deadlock, only she knows it,” an elder who first pushed her into politics told the Guardian. According to streams of increasingly agitated posts on the country’s many bulletin boards, some supporters are even unsure if their leader remains actively engaged in the struggle at all. Suu Kyi’s fight appears to have sublimated into a meditative battle, some say, underscored by her deeply felt spiritual views. “The generals heap pressure on her. She soaks it up,” one Burmese activist remarked. Nowadays in Burma it is, the activists say, metta v the military, with Suu Kyi wielding only the Buddhist notion of loving kindness against the battle-hardened men in khaki.

So esoteric has the combat become that a noticeboard Suu Kyi has erected outside her house is – by her own choosing – now the only gauge of her inner-most ideas. This summer she posted a message on it which was so perplexing that it sparked an acrimonious debate among supporters and commentators.

Just inside the blue gates behind which Suu Kyi has been detained for 13 of the past 19 years, the message declares in bold red lettering: “All martyrs must finish their mission.” Suu Kyi is renowned for her verbal precision. In the flesh she can be tart, a pedant even. So what did she mean? The question has been asked by supporters and opponents. The sign was put up to coincide with the country’s Martyrs Day, a national holiday that commemorates the death of General Aung San.

In the vacuum that has replaced Suu Kyi’s spoken words, the bizarre martyrdom message has been interpreted by some as a justification of her personal stance, and a vow that she will continue her struggle regardless of her own suffering – she lost her husband, Michael Aris, to cancer in 1999 and was not given the chance to say a final goodbye, and she is still separated from her two sons Kim and Alexander. However, for others, her reference to the need to finish the mission is seen as an astounding concession from a woman who has until now steadfastly refused to perceive herself as a martyr. Suu Kyi has, in the past, always described herself as an activist at the helm of an effective political movement.

In the land of bad news, speculation has mounted. A frank debate aired in campaign newspapers, online magazines and in political circles has thrown up some uncomfortable and incontrovertible facts about the state of the struggle for democracy and the effectiveness of Suu Kyi herself. Despite dedicating 20 years to ridding her country of its lumpen military, the generals’ power has only increased, their role in any future elected government enshrined by the new constitution, which will lead to general elections in 2010 in which the only parties with the ability to canvas are those controlled by the same generals. On the other side, and having won the election in 1990, Suu Kyi has boycotted the constitution drafting process and the new elections, while advancing no alternative workable policies. Meanwhile, her NLD machine crashes around her – 1,000 of her supporters have been jailed this year alone, and no new leaders are emerging to fill their places in a party that is also short on policy.

The noticeboard that sprung up outside her home has been read by many as a downsizing of Suu Kyi’s aspirations, and an acknowledgement that she now considers herself more a votive candle for democracy – a flame memorialising lost opportunities, and giving the Burmese people strength to survive whatever the military junta throws at them – rather than a political leader fighting to overthrow the regime once and for all. This apparent shift has provoked extraordinary candour both within Burma and among the millions of exiled Burmese who this summer commemorated the 20th anniversary of the student uprisings whose bloody suppression launched Suu Kyi and the NLD.

Suu Kyi is hallowed ground. And yet even some of her diehard supporters are now asking if the NLD and its leader have been guilty of political naivety and moral high-handedness, leaving the party and the democracy movement moribund. “What would happen if Suu Kyi died?” a magazine run by exiled Burmese dared to ask in August. “Her absence would probably be a death blow to the already weakened democracy struggle, because she has no obvious successor.”

This is only one of the failings that some supporters now accuse her of. In late September, Aye Thar Aung, an ethnic Arakanese leader from western Burma and senior NLD coalition partner, broke cover. He had come to believe that the NLD had achieved no “tangible improvements in democratic reform” in 20 years. To go forward, even a centimetre, the party had to learn from the mistakes of its past, he argued. Now, for the first time, Suu Kyi’s supporters are reviewing her leadership – and finding it wanting.

When Suu Kyi was reluctantly pushed forward as a figurehead for the newly formed NLD, she took her cue from the Dalai Lama, immediately pledging to pursue a “democratic dialogue” with the regime as opposed to engaging in armed struggle. But was she up to it? Most of the generals had spent their youth as anti-colonialists fighting the British and afterwards warring in grinding insurgencies – what hope did Suu Kyi have, an inexperienced politician who had been educated in India and Britain and even spoke Burmese with a British accent?

After her resounding 1990 electoral victory, the generals regrouped. The military placed her under house arrest and tore her party to pieces, while unfurling a sophisticated, long-range political programme whose breadth is only being appreciated today. They launched a National Convention to draw up a new constitution for Burma, to legalise the illegitimate military’s role in any future government. They also established the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a mass civilian organisation that inveigled its way into all levels of society, to be wielded as a political cheerleader in future elections. “Their goal was to get around the will of the people,” a Burmese economist in Rangoon told us. “To get elected despite the people.”

To buy time, Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, occasionally reached out to Suu Kyi, staging meetings at a government guesthouse. Photographs show her curtseying, while the general’s face registers no discernible emotion at all. They had something in common. Both were authoritarian and proud.

Nyo Ohn Myint, who today is foreign affairs spokesman for the exiled wing of the NLD, recently described to Irrawaddy, an online magazine run by exiled Burmese, how the party was so pleased with itself for winning in 1990 that it became “ambitious beyond reality”. Suu Kyi, according to party members, began taking decisions unilaterally that were aimed at confronting and isolating the military, even though as an organisation that was decades old and far more coherent than the NLD it would need to be worked with. She announced that the NLD would not participate in the generals’ National Convention – a self-serving vehicle for the junta, but also the only forum to debate with the armed forces.

She also demanded that Burma be transformed into a pariah state – that the country be brought to its knees by sanctions imposed by her allies in Europe and the US. Nyo Ohn Myint reflected: “The approach was extreme. It was just a bull fight.” The party squandered its opportunities. He added: “At that time, most of us had just three or four months in politics. But we became policy makers in the NLD.”

Suu Kyi’s tactics did not work. In the west, sanctions felt good. But trade between Europe and Burma was less than 5% of the country’s GDP, while US sanctions were ultimately hollow, constructed in order that Unocal, the US oil giant, could continue to operate in Burma, increasing its stake to $1.2bn. For every western company that bailed out, there was an Asian equivalent that came in. A report by the International Crisis Group also warned: “Sanctions confirmed the suspicions of strongly nationalistic leaders that the west aims to dominate and exploit [Burma] and strengthens their resolve to resist.”

According to the Rangoon economist, “Suu Kyi pressed on, creating further disquiet in the NLD by calling for NGOs in Burma to quit [because they were] prolonging the life of a junta.” It was a controversial position in a country now rife with malaria and HIV, where only 50p per person was spent on health. But according to a former NLD leader in Rangoon: “Those who spoke out, she drummed out.”

Having boycotted the military’s route march to democracy, what new policies did the NLD generate, some in the NLD inner circle began to ask? In 1998, Suu Kyi went against the advice of her party by unveiling her own Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, which would cancel all laws passed by the junta. One of those who protested to Suu Kyi recalls: “It was a symbolic gesture that led to the jailing of 110 NLD MPS and the closing down of 43 NLD offices. The NLD imploded. We should have found a way to intervene in the debate. We allowed the military that was unpopular to become a government that could succeed, while the NLD, a party that was popular, got lost.”

Aung Naing Oo, a leader in the 1988 student uprisings and for seven years the foreign affairs spokesman for the anti-junta All Burma Students Democratic Front, told Irrawaddy: “I think our politicians are naive and no more than activists. They don’t know how to take power and they have no strategic policies.” He went further: “Never in our history did we have such an excellent combination of influential political figures, such as [Suu Kyi]. But sadly, those leaders … followed their own path, ignoring unity.”

A former senior NLD MP in Rangoon told the Guardian: “The old guard just clung on, incapable of training new activists, deaf to ideas, too strung up on bureaucracy and centralisation. While Suu Kyi remained inspirational, she was ineffective as a leader and the party, under attack from the outside, was neutered from within.”

In 2005, the now unassailable generals turned their backs on the people (and Suu Kyi) altogether, retreating to Naypyidaw, the new highly-fortified capital 320km north of Rangoon. It, too, was a symbolic act. The Rangoon-based economist said: “If the democracy movement was leaderless, the Burmese regime was now a government unique in that it was unburdened by having to care for its people.”

It was while the Burmese people came together when cyclone Nargis struck, driving aid to victims and pulling fallen trees from the capital’s roads in the absence of any governmental help, that Suu Kyi’s noticeboard leapt into life. One of those prompted to talk out by the bizarre martyrdom message was Tun Myint Aung, a student leader from 1988. He concluded: “No one can deny that we are on the side of truth and the people. But what we also have to consider seriously is whether our sacrifices alone will actually bring victory.” Being a martyr was simply not good enough.

It was a point underscored by Burma’s longest-serving political prisoner, Win Tin, a 79-year-old former journalist and advisor to Suu Kyi, who was released by the junta on September 23 this year. Reappointed secretary to the NLD’s central executive committee, he immediately entered the fray. The fight for democracy “hadn’t ended yet”, he announced. However, “the NLD alone can’t work it out”. Instead of waiting the junta out, and turning its back, the party and its leader would have to begin engaging with its enemies as well as its friends. With any one, in fact, with whom it could form a dialogue. But when it comes to leaders, some in the party are asking whether it is it time to move on from Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Comments

melonman

Nov 11 08, 2:07pm (about 8 hours ago)

that caption beggars belief? read the piece?

  • outertrial's profile picture outertrial

    Nov 11 08, 2:11pm (about 8 hours ago)

    I spent a month travelling round Burma. Based on my experiences one of the least helpful tools employed to bring down the junta is the self imposed isolation brought about by Suu Kyi, and enthusiastically maintained by many worthy NGOs.

    It pretty much gives SLORC free reign to do what it wants, untroubled by prying eyes, and has done nothing to stop inward investment from other unsavoury regimes, enough to keep the junta in dollar bills forever, while the citizens live in utter penury.

    The only places where the people are relatively free from oppression are those that are on the tourist trail. Sometimes paying for entry to government “owned” areas is unavoidable, but for the most part the caretakers are quite happy to tip you a nod and a wink and let you in the side door for a few dollars.

    If you suspect abuse in someones home you dont board up the front door and lock everyone in there, but thats effectively what Suu Kyis done to Burma. She and the Burmese with her, have sacrificed a lot, I suspect she just cant admit shes wrong.

  • Pete97's profile picture Pete97

    Nov 11 08, 2:20pm (about 8 hours ago)

    Maybe, just maybe she is tired.

    20yrs of house arrest, tiresome.

    How many of her supporters murdered…Tiring

    Another UN envoy, who will do nothing….boring.

    She and her people don’t need Gordon Brown or anyone else to write nice honourable things about her. All the honours and awards, for what end?

  • Nov 11 08, 2:42pm (about 8 hours ago)

    Last time Suu went out with her followers, 70 of them were killed. Others, many many of them, are in prison. Of couse she is tired, feeling her age and needing all the help she can get. What on earth is she expected to do now? She was trying to do the impossible – to topple an undemocratic and violent regime by peaceful means. Would that it were possible! The military regime would love to get rid of her once and for all. She is obstinate and single-minded, but my goodness she is brave and needs our empathy 100%. It is just a pity we are unable to do more to help Burma.

  • exliontamer's profile picture exliontamer

    Nov 11 08, 2:56pm (about 7 hours ago)

    So that’s a big green light to visit the country and give additional tourist revenue to SLORC after all then is it?
    Those goons over at the Lonely Planet site will be happy.

  • melonman's profile picture melonman

    Nov 11 08, 2:58pm (about 7 hours ago)

    outertrial… ‘self-imposed isolation’?

    do you think Suu Kyi was/is happy to be holed up in University Avenue while her husband passed away and her sons grow up? she could have left Burma to be with her husband at the end but knew that the junta would not give her a visa to get back in.

    Suu Kyi feels she has a duty to her people, and that is the hand she was dealt. I too have spent time in Burma and my overriding feeling when i left was of sadness for a people living in terrible fear and with little prospect of that improving as, thanks to selective sanctions from the west, China particulary, and corrupt Thai generals in general, have stepped in to fill those voids.

    Burma now is little more than a colony of China, which finds the Bay of Bengal seaboard a more than useful addition to its armoury. With neighbours like that, the status quo will remain for some time yet, whatever The Lady does.

    * now will someone read the house-style book and change that ‘Myanmar activists’ line

  • bakuninslittlehelper's profile picture bakuninslittlehelper

    Nov 11 08, 3:15pm (about 7 hours ago)

    I would imagine the fact that there are only six comments so far (15 hours after publication) about the only well known beacon of resistance in Myanmar is a cogent indication of how little interest there is in this whole appalling blight on humanity.
    Yes I’m sure this poor woman has been muted to some extent by this inhuman repression. I would tentatively suggest that incarcerated even among the comforts of one’s home can in the long run be just as deleterious as any prison cell.

  • biba100mejico's profile picture biba100mejico

    Nov 11 08, 3:17pm (about 7 hours ago)

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • Eong's profile picture Eong

    Nov 11 08, 3:32pm (about 7 hours ago)

    May be the authors need to listen to people and activists inside Burma more closely than so-called Burma experts living in exile and those invited to round table conferences and Burma days. If both Cathy Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy are seeking attention with their catchy title, they have succeeded on that front, but their piece shows their clear lack of understanding of Burma politics and culture.

    They failed to describe why the demonstrators chose to walk past her house during last year’s protest. She remains a hero to millions of Burmese people, and many believe with their lives that she is their leader, who can unite many political factions and ethnic minorities. She understands Burma’s political culture and sympathizes with the masses.

    When she refused to see Gambari, many took it as a very strong signal that UN is failing, and when she sent a message that ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst,’ many were motivated. She did not create those just to excite the crowd. She knows well that as a public leader, she has to give hope and more importantly to prepare both herself and the country to renew the struggle.

    Authors failed to understand that personality plays a big role in many Asian countries, and without ASSK, Burma’s democratic movement could have died long time ago. Authors also failed to do a proper research, and did not seem to know that ASSK has made many offers to the government for dialogues. It is not her who is unwilling to talk, but the regime. When one party, i.e. the government, has no interest in solving ever worsening problems by means of cooperation with multiple groups, politics will remain status quo, and blame should not be pointed to ASSK. She has been simply not given a chance, and accusing her as unwilling to talk reflects a much-biased attitude towards her and her party.

    It is true that sanctions are just symbolic, but that doesnt mean they must be lifted. The countrys economic problems are not due to sanctions. Most, if not all, problems are attributed to the governments lack of expertise, management and most importantly, their unwillingness to open up the country and create infrastructure for a better economy. One good example is that a group of tourist companies requested the prime minister to waive visas to certain nationals and issue ‘visa on arrivals this year so that tourists will be returning to Burma, and more might come. But the prime minister rejected the proposal. This example shows that the government is responsible for the sick tourist industry of Burma, and not ASSK. Also, there is no law to protect ones business and properties, and a rational business man will not invest in Burma (unless you are TOTAL or Daewoo, whom the regime cannot bully but have to please for foreign currency).

    With more and more articles like this one, ‘the worlds leading liberal voice seems to have been intimidated by the Burmese regime, and it so coincides that Guardian published this article on the day when many heroes of Burma were given long sentences just for voicing out against the regime. ASSK and these leaders will remain heroes for us, Burmese, for a long time.

  • Calidris's profile picture Calidris

    Nov 11 08, 3:41pm (about 7 hours ago)

    .

    Oh for heaven’s sake.

    It’s hardly a slow news day, so what’s going on?

    .

  • Calidris's profile picture Calidris

    Nov 11 08, 3:43pm (about 6 hours ago)

    .

    Thank you Eong. Excellent antidote.

    .

  • crydda's profile picture crydda

    Nov 11 08, 3:45pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Anyone who has suffered as much as this heroic woman, must surely reach the stage of complete despair, exhaustion or perhaps, sadly, madness. Her legacy of strength and devotion shouild not be undermined by her current, unknown mental or physical status.
    To those making comments as a result of your visits to Burma; you have behaved at best thoughtlessly and perhaps disgracefully, by putting you desires for experiences and adventure above the well being of the burmese people. Any tourist or business person visiting Burma is, even inadvertantly, supporting an evil regime.

  • wilkan's profile picture wilkan

    Nov 11 08, 3:46pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Hmm. Let me see if I have this straight. A democratically elected leader espousing non violence is faced with a military junta so vicious that they would not just kill their people in thousands but even, for example, let them die rather than allow aid to be brought into the country after a hurricane. This leader is kept under house arrest for decades and her supporters shot every time she tries to protest, however peacefully. In this desperate situation she fails, totally fails, to pull off a miracle and overthrow the overwhelming military force. Not only that but she seems to have aged in the process. And thus she is clearly the main part of the problem.
    What a shameful article.

  • rightwinggit's profile picture rightwinggit

    Nov 11 08, 3:50pm (about 6 hours ago)

    But despite her international image as a great leader, Suu Kyi has become mute since her arrest in 2003. Twenty years on from her great speech in Rangoon there is nothing but static emanating from her Rangoon home.

    Question:

    Does Suu Kyi have to the option to receive guests and communicate with th outside as she pleases?

    She is, after all, a prisoner even if that prison happens to be her home.

  • klevispin's profile picture klevispin

    Nov 11 08, 3:53pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Wow, Just wow. Kick ’em when they’re down eh?

  • Halfaperson72's profile picture Halfaperson72

    Nov 11 08, 4:01pm (about 6 hours ago)

    This article really is shameful, butit plumbed new depths with this…

    “While western activists, such as the Burma Campaign UK, have never been more vocal – recently being backed by stars including Ricky Gervais – their focal point, Suu Kyi, has chosen to stay quiet behind the locked gates of her home.”

    Ricky Gervais eh? The junta must be quaking in their shoes, they must know the game is up.

    If you are seriously saying that Suu Kyi has made strategic decisions that have not helped the cause, are you really advocating that a comedy writer from Reading is better placed to lead the campaign? That selfish woman, staying silent in prison when she could hand over her position to Ricky.

  • boxthejack's profile picture boxthejack

    Nov 11 08, 4:12pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Well said halfa…

    To be fair, the article is interesting and relevant; the headline is controversial for the hell of it and serves to undermine the rest of the article.

  • ManchePaul's profile picture ManchePaul

    Nov 11 08, 4:19pm (about 6 hours ago)

    This article is utterly shameful to the point of obscenity. How dare these people have so little understanding and thought for the reality of Suu Kyi’s present position and past experiences to even think for a second that what they have written could be anything other than disgraceful ignorance and appalling inability to comprehend.

    The guardian should equally be ashamed to have given this platform to these two absurd fools. Worthless journalism by worthless journalists whose own experience of useful activity, political campaigning and oppression seems limited to the level of complaining about the absence of a nearby Starbucks. Stick them under house arrest, shoot their friends, jail the survivors and then see how long they stand it.

    Disgraceful.

  • thantsinkyaw's profile picture thantsinkyaw

    Nov 11 08, 4:22pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Mingâlaba!

    I think the time has come to find a new savior. The lady has been forgotten and even if she was still remembered she is too old to lead a revolution.

  • weaselword's profile picture weaselword

    Nov 11 08, 4:25pm (about 6 hours ago)

    I am terribly disappointed by the tone of this article, so crudely summarized in the heading “Not such a hero after all”.

    The question ought not be, what is an imprisoned woman doing to pull her country from under the military dictatorship, but what are we doing about it?

    Where does this impotent reliance on heroes comes from? Big businesses manage quite well without them, through organization and persistent lobbying. The rest of us can learn something from them.

  • thantsinkyaw's profile picture thantsinkyaw

    Nov 11 08, 4:46pm (about 5 hours ago)

    weaselword what do you suggest? Maybe we could all sign a petition and send it by DHL to the Than Shwe.

  • Pete97's profile picture Pete97

    Nov 11 08, 4:48pm (about 5 hours ago)

    Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

    Not Such Good Journalism After All

  • Bartron01's profile picture Bartron01

    Nov 11 08, 5:03pm (about 5 hours ago)

    It is one thing to point out the obvious fact that Burma is still a military dicatorship. It is quite another thing to (quite literally) blame a woman who has been kept jailed in her own home for nearly two DECADES for failing to overcome her armed military guards and properly lead her movement to victory over that dictatorship.

    “The noticeboard that sprung up outside her home has been read by many as a downsizing of Suu Kyi’s aspirations, and an acknowledgement that she now considers herself more a votive candle for democracy…”

    Garbage. Neither Ms. Scott-Clark nor Ms. Adrian have the SLIGHTEST IDEA what that noticeboard means, because neither they nor anyone else has any real idea of who put it up or why. Has it ever occurred to either of them that Mrs. Kyi cannot be held to account for whatever she or anyone else puts up on a billboard outside her home so long as men with rifles can and do walk into her living room and threaten her at will? That she may not be allowed to say anything else?

    Remember that Nelson Mandela, Lec Valesa, Martin Luther King and other more successful democracy advocates and champions had the benefit of being trapped by systems which were forced by their own ruling clases to pay at least lip service to due process methods which enabled those advocates to communicate with and at least partially direct the efforts of their movements. They could be held to account because they had some measure of control. Aung San Suu Kyi has no such luxury, and it is grossly unfair- petulent, even- for these two reporters to blame her for it.

  • diverse's profile picture diverse

    Nov 11 08, 6:02pm (about 4 hours ago)

    I question why the Guardian is running a meretricious article such as this with a knowingly provocative title? Editors with any real sense of the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma would have red pencilled such an insensitive and ill informed piece. Aung San Suu Kyi has suffered in a similar manner to Mandela and has chosen to avoid violence. I recognise that to these two reporters and to many in the West this an incoherent strategy but Ghandi and Mandela have proved that in the long term it works.
    I am saddened to see The Guardian adding to the suffering of the Burmese people and its democratically elected leader.

     

  • GAIAagain's profile picture GAIAagain

    Nov 11 08, 6:32pm (about 4 hours ago)

    This article does mention the financial conduits that take the money out of Burma and how they are facilitated by SWIFT in a cynical abuse of the US, UK and EU sanctions that exist against this poor misgoverned country. SWIFT is helping keep the regime in place by allowing its services to be used to move funds out of the country.

    Until the world sees its way towards isolating the finances of this odious regime any sanctions that exist do not sufficiently target the greedy generals. It is not enough to ban imports of gems and teak. We must support The Lady’s continuous demand for sanctions with creative respect to the pockets of these military leeches.

    A federal democratic Burma representing all the tribes must be built if this country is ever to rejoin the world’s community of nations. China has a huge responsibility to help Burma achieve this. But I doubt we can rely on her conscience.

    GAIA

  • GAIAagain's profile picture GAIAagain

    Nov 11 08, 6:34pm (about 4 hours ago)

    This article does NOT mention the financial conduits that take the money out of Burma and how they are facilitated by SWIFT in a cynical abuse of the US, UK and EU sanctions that exist against this poor misgoverned country. SWIFT is helping keep the regime in place by allowing its services to be used to move funds out of the country.

    Until the world sees its way towards isolating the finances of this odious regime any sanctions that exist do not sufficiently target the greedy generals. It is not enough to ban imports of gems and teak. We must support The Lady’s continuous demand for sanctions with creative respect to the pockets of these military leeches.

    A federal democratic Burma representing all the tribes must be built if this country is ever to rejoin the world’s community of nations. China has a huge responsibility to help Burma achieve this. But I doubt we can rely on her conscience.

    GAIA

  • Stevemould's profile picture Stevemould

    Nov 11 08, 6:55pm (about 3 hours ago)

    This does seem like a fairly nasty article.

    Whatever her strengths or weaknesses as a politician, there is no doubting Aung San Suu Kyi immense bravery over years of persecution by the Junta. As other posters have said, could it not be that she’s tired of the fighting, the house arrests and the many deaths of those around her which she has been forced to endure?

    to turn on her as soon as she tries to step back from the spotlight seems at best mean-spirited and at worst downright malicious.

  • JARHEAD2's profile picture JARHEAD2

    Nov 11 08, 7:09pm (about 3 hours ago)

    I find it crazy that it took TWO people to write this textual dishwater.

    Always lookin’ for an angle

  • biba100mejico's profile picture biba100mejico

    Nov 11 08, 7:12pm (about 3 hours ago)

    Go on you brave journalists stick the boot in again. 

  • Shinminoo's profile picture Shinminoo

    Nov 11 08, 7:13pm (about 3 hours ago)

    We think Guardian is the well respected and unbias media for all over the world i suppose. The authors should well listen to the voices from inside Burma rather than so call expert from exiles. This is insulting the people’s hope and beleive for Burma.No one from the exile campaigns groups could do better if there is no one inside sacrifiing their lives.There are a lot of campaign groups dedicated for Burma. Don’t just hand pick the people you know for the articles.

  • biba100mejico's profile picture biba100mejico

    Nov 11 08, 7:14pm (about 3 hours ago)

    Anyway now I know why a comment may be deleted ………………

  • HermanHesse's profile picture HermanHesse

    Nov 11 08, 8:11pm (about 2 hours ago)

    The only case I can make in defence for this article is by using a quote from Albert Camus “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad. ”

    As I say that is the only defence I can make.

    If Cathy wanted to write a piece from slightly different perspective then why not look closer at China’s role in all of this.

    Very poor article, not only is it badly written but I am extremely disturbing by the spirit in which it’s written and how this reflects on the papers International reputation. Please can the editors give greater scrutiny to the work of Cathy Scott-Clark in the future.

     

  • MyoThein's profile picture MyoThein

    Nov 11 08, 8:22pm (about 2 hours ago)

    The media stunt of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy are very boring as they just wanted to boost their names by insulting Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese people. After all, they just know just handful of Burmese people and groups, so-called experts on Burma and some Burma analysts. Poor them that do they really know that they are brain washed by military junta’s propagana and stooges of military regime, such as spies and informers within opposition groups instigated by junta. I would like to ask the authors that if they really wanted to know the real desire of Burmese people, just listen to people inside Burma, 50 millions Burmese people. We all behind Aung San Suu Kyi and mind that what junta’s information minister said “We will fight media with the media” and you are one of them manipulated by junta.

    I would like to warn Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy that next times dont abuse media freedom.

    LONG LIVE AUNG SAN SUU KYI AND SHE MUST BE A PRIME MINISTER OF BURMA.

  • walterbenjaminsgrave's profile picture walterbenjaminsgrave

    Nov 11 08, 9:06pm (about 1 hour ago)

    The sensationalism of the title is pretty scandalous. But what do you expect?

    A more judicious, finely calculated treatment of the tragedy of Burma would require writers who had a stake, a moral-political engagement in the politics and history of Burma and Burmese liberation; a location and an investment that would never have permitted such crassness.

    Instead we have an authorial voice that reads as if its underwritten by the entitlement of gap year travel and careerism…

  • watote's profile picture watote

    Nov 11 08, 9:38pm (35 minutes ago)

    It’s jaw-droppingly silly piece of writing at its lowest of the lows. Some of the points I’d like to raise has been highlighted Eong. Thanks to her or him. Coincidently I was reading this article while listening to BBC broadcast about the lengthy sentence given to 14 student leaders who were arrested last year. Guess what? Each received 65 years of imprisonment. Charges? Passing on information electronically. The charges themselves are not clear. Even their lawers were jailed six months each for ‘showing contempt to the court’.
    Our country is facing extreme moral crisis. And who side we should be standing is beyond any disputes.

    Perhaps I may be accused of moral highjacking by telling student leaders’ sentences. Levy and Scot-Clark perhaphs got no moral to get hijacked. And poorly researched and thoroughly unprofessional as Eong pointed well. SPDC used DASSK to quiten external criticism. She knew that. But she was collaborating in the hope that some positive outcome, no matter how minimal, might be produced. Her refusal to Gambari is a statement of intent. She is telling us that UN is s–t and corrupt and don’t expect UN to do anything for us.

    Scot-Clark and Levy, you may have to write something to pay for your mortgages. But this is soooooooooooooooooo low. Let me end my comment with a quote from Dante which I saw recently in BBC.

    The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who maintain neutrality in times of extreme moral crisis.

    Well, the least we want from a respectable national newspaper is ‘secular, crude and unprofessional pieces of writing which does not merit journalism.

  • watote's profile picture watote

    Nov 11 08, 9:52pm (21 minutes ago)

    Guardian Edtiors,

    Please give some good coverage about the trials of students’ leaders who have been sentenced 65 years each. Please research professionally.

  • melonman's profile picture melonman

    Nov 11 08, 9:55pm (18 minutes ago)

    ckick on their by-lines and you will get their back catalogue.

    an afternoon in the new capital ( the name escaspes me) for instance. an astonishing idea for a piece, even more astonishing that someone bought into it.

    * ***would someone get myanmar out of the caption please, the word does not appear in the article so there is no justification for it.

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