Aung San Suu Kyi, often affectionately referred to as “The Lady”, is prime minister elect of Myanmar. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, a pro-democracy activist organization.1 Although legally voted into office, she was never allowed to assume power, even though the NLD party won by a landslide in 1990.2 The last general election took place 19 years ago as of 27 May 2009.3 Suu Kyi has been detained for 13 of those years.
Detained, Arrested, Now on Trial
The Bangkok Post reports that a statement from the Asia-Europe (ASEM) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (that ended 26 May) was released calling for release of those under detention.2 The statement also calls for elections to be held “in a free and fair manner”. Likewise, the Prime Minister of Thailand and Chairman of ASEAN, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has called on Burma’s military ruling junta to release Suu Kyi.4 Since then, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also called for her release.5 George Clooney and David Beckham have prepared a 64 word message for her to be delivered on 19 June 2009, which is her 64th birthday (ibid).
Suu Kyi is currently on trial for supposedly violating her house arrest. As one of the Telegraph’s bylines says, “Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, told her trial on Tuesday that she did not violate her house arrest, saying she only offered temporary shelter to a US man who swam to her lakeside home.”6 Further, the Telegraph reported on 26 May 2009:
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was testifying for the first time at the maximum security Insein Prison in Yangon, in a case which has drawn widespread international condemnation of the country’s iron-fisted military junta.
“I didn’t,” the 63-year-old replied when a judge asked her whether she had breached the restriction order keeping her at her residence, according to reporters and diplomats present at the hearing.
The long-standing figurehead of Burma’s peaceful opposition movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces up to five years in jail if convicted. She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.
She said the first she knew of the bizarre visit by American army veteran John Yettaw was when her assistant woke her up at around dawn on May 4 to tell her that a man had arrived the house.
“I did not inform them,” she said when asked by the judge whether she had told Burma’s military authorities about the intrusion.
Aung San Suu Kyi was also asked about claims that she had given Yettaw food and let him stay at the house, replying: “I allowed him to have temporary shelter.”
Suu Kyi understandably blames the junta for its lack of security.7 If they had been guarding her, as they supposedly are doing, then John Yettaw, the American who swam a lake to visit Suu Kyi, would not have been able to sneak into her residence.
Why Yettow Visited Her
In one of the more bizarre twists in the trial, the 27 May 2009 Telegraph reports, “US man was ‘sent by God’ to Burma to warn Aung San Suu Kyi of death plot”.8
During a three-hour appearance at a court in Rangoon, John Yettaw, 53, a Vietnam veteran, said that he had a vision in which the Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader was assassinated by terrorists and he had wanted to warn her and the government.
Mr Yettaw, 53, fashioned a homemade pair of flippers to swim across a Rangoon lake to reach the villa where Mrs Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest.
Her house arrest order expired on Tuesday but she now faces five years in jail for illegally receiving a visitor.
Yettaw also faces jail time, in case you are wondering. One of the charges is “illegal swimming”, whatever that is. Perhaps they should charge him with making fools of the military.
The Cruelty of the Reigning Junta
Perhaps you recall that 2 May 2008, just over a year ago, Cyclone Nargis swept up through southern Burma around 6 pm. It killed 140,000 people. Approximately 2.4 million more were displaced.
You may also recall that for a long time, the government of Myanmar (the US name for Burma) refused foreign aid. When they finally did let in foreign aid, it was severely restricted and thus made rather ineffective. Many children were orphaned during that time and left to their own devices for survival.
How are things one year later? How are the children? As the Telegraph reports in “Burma: the children of Cyclone Nargis”9, documentary filmmakers risked up to 30 years in jail to report that:
A year later, some have been reunited with family members, some have been taken into orphanages and monasteries, and some have ended up in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. But many children are still eking out an existence on their own, faced with the daily ordeal of accessing food and drinking water, while living in makeshift huts constructed out of bamboo and tarpaulin that offer scant protection from the impending monsoons.
Orphans of the Storm, a remarkable documentary that uses footage shot undercover by Burmese cameramen across the restricted delta region, tells the harrowing stories of these orphaned children and honours their extraordinary resilience in the long year since Nargis.
This is a government that cares only for power. It is not a government that cares about peace, democracy or even humanity.
The Miracle of Kawthoolei
Has God forsaken Burma? Are you aware of God’s work that is occurring in Myanmar? Are you aware that some of God’s people face persecution every day in a country hostile to Christianity?
Within Burma is a tribe known as the Karen. The Karen are a remarkable people. They were one of the first to turn to Christianity in the country. This did not occur without God’s intervention, however. I am working on an article that will tell you more about how God prepared the way for Adoniram Judson to bring Bibles to the area, and I plan on publishing it at the end of June. It is a remarkable story.
Meanwhile, if you want to know some of what God is working on in SE Asia, including Burma, Thailand and India, then note that one of the links at the bottom of the page is for Legacy Institute. Legacy Institute is a school run by COG minister Leon Sexton. It is a school, not a church, but students are taught English, agriculture, computer skills and the Bible. They are taught the Sabbath, Holy Days and Biblical dietary laws.
Pray for SE Asia. Pray for the small work being done there. Pray that many disciples will come out of that region to offset years of warped thinking. Most of all, pray for God’s Kingdom to come – and soon.
- Aung San Suu Kyi. (n.d.). Retrieved 28 May 2009 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aung_San_Suu_Kyi.
- AFP. (25 May 2009). ASEM to call for Suu Kyi release. Bangkok Post. Retrieved 28 May 2009 from http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/144340/asem-to-call-for-suu-kyi-release.
- AFP. (24 May 2009). Suu Kyi readies defence case. Bangkok Post. Retrieved 28 May 2009 from http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/144228/burma-aung-san-suu-kyi-readies-defence-case.
- BangkokPost.com. (19 May 2009). PM demands Suu Kyi’s release. Bangkok Post. Retrieved 28 May 2009 from http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/143698/pm-demands-suu-kyi-release.
- Telegraph.co.uk. (27 May 2009). Gordon Brown demands release of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2990 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/5394189/Gordon-Brown-demands-release-of-Burmas-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi.html.
- Telegraph.co.uk. (26 May 2009). Aung San Suu Kyi denies violating house arrest. Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2990 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/5386633/Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-denies-violating-house-arrest.html.
- Telegraph.co.uk. (22 May 2009). Aung San Suu Kyi pleads not guilty. Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2990 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/5370798/Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-pleads-not-guilty.html.
- Telegraph.co.uk. (27 May 2009). US man was ‘sent by God’ to Burma to warn Aung San Suu Kyi of death plot. Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2990 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/5394998/US-man-was-sent-by-God-to-Burma-to-warn-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-of-death-plot.html.
- Patalay, Ajesh. (21 May 2009). Burma: the children of Cyclone Nargis. Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2990 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/5350077/Burma-the-children-of-Cyclone-Nargis—myanmar.html.