Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Freedom at what price?

Earlier this week we received the good news that Nobel Peace Laureat Aung San Suu Kyi was released from the house arrest under which she has spent 15 of the past 21 years. This is not the end, however. The country in which she lives is ruled by a military junta which flagrantly breaks the Geneva Convention and routinely lists killings, torture, rape, destruction and appropriation of property, and taking of hostages among its violation of human rights and crimes against humanity.

Aung San Suu Kyi has much Western backing, and support for her has become symbolic with the struggle to protect democracy and freedom of the individual. She has been released before. In 1995 she was released only to be attacked and there are fears that a similar thing could happen again. She may be out of 'custody' but as long as she speaks out against the abuse of human rights she is not safe. She also argues that she is not free.

"If my people are not free, how can you say I am free? We are none of us free."

Immediately Aung San Suu Kyi wants to work to free the more than 2,100 political prisoners still being held by the Burmese regime. Her intention is to gain global support and bring their plight to interantional attention. "This is a time for Burma when we need help. We need everybody to help in this venture. Western nations, eastern nations, all nations."

She displays an exemplary love of her country despite the treatment she has received and says of her captors, "I think we will have to sort out our differences across the table, talking to each other, agreeing to disagree, or finding out why we disagree and trying to remove the sources of our disagreement." We can only wish that others around the world were more rational and less bent on revenge.

In a speech of which a trade unionist would be proud, she said, "There is a time to be quiet and a time to talk. People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal." Crucially this assumes that we all have the same goal. Unfortunately while some seek personal advancement at all costs, and inevitably the expenxse of others, this can never be the case.

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