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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Arrested

by Julie Schwietert May 14, 2009
The first report I heard on the news this morning was that 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested– again.

63 year old Aung San Suu Kyi has spent the past 13 years under house arrest for her activist and humanitarian efforts to oppose the military government in Burma/Myanmar, which has ruled the country since 1962.

In just two weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled to be released from her term of house arrest, but was removed from her home earlier this week and taken to a prison after an utterly bizarre event, about which she herself appeared to have had no previous knowledge.

According to this report by the New York Times, a 53 year old American citizen swam across a lake to reach the home of the activist, spending a night on the grounds of her house. The man, who described himself as a Mormon and said he was in Burma/Myanmar working on a book about heroes, refused to leave despite Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s request for him to do so.

The terms of her house arrest forbid visitors, even, apparently, uninvited and unwelcome guests.

The news sent me to the library to look up this passage in Paul Monette’s book, Last Watch of the Night. I read Monette’s book about 12 years ago and it’s where I first learned of Aung San Suu Kyi. I kept this quote above my desk for years:

“The winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, a woman named Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest in Burma for years now. She went back to Burma to take care of her ailing mother. She was a free woman, married to an Oxford don. But her father was the founder of modern Burma, and when the generals took over they told her she wasn’t allowed to stay and care for her mother. They wanted her out, so they could continue the repression and destruction of the society without any witnesses. And she said no, she wouldn’t go.

She’s gravely ill now from a hunger strike, and she’s told the generals that she’ll gladly leave. But she said, ‘I want all the political prisoners released, and I want to walk to the airport.’ It’s twenty miles from her prison house to the airport. And she has so rallied the spirit of her people that the generals rightly fear that the whole country would turn out to cheer her if she took that…walk. So please think about her when you think of the politics of silence.”

Community Connection:

If you’d like to learn more about Burma/Myanmar, Matador’s own writer and editor Tim Patterson, and Matador contributor and photographer Ryan Libre, visited the country last year. You can find a series of articles and photos about their experience here:

The Kachin Struggle For Freedom

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