Despite Discomfort, Aung San Suu Kyi Stays Busy

source : The Irrawaddy - By BA KAUNG

Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed her lawyer Nyan Win with an ice-cream. “I made it myself,” she said. “Eat it up quickly before it melts.”

Making ice-cream and baking cakes is one of the ways Suu Kyi fills the long hours of her enforced detention in her dilapidated home on Rangoon’s Inya Lake.

Aung San Suu Kyi looks on following a meeting with a delegation led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell at a hotel in Rangoon Nov. 4, 2009.

“She spends a good deal of time working out how to strengthen the party [the National League for Democracy],” said Nyan Win after a visit to Suu Kyi’s home on Thursday.

Reporting on the visit, Nyan Win said he found the 64-year-old NLD leader in good health and “vigorous.”

The lawyer told The Irrawaddy he and Suu Kyi had discussed how to pursue a final appeal against her current term of house arrest, the expansion of the NLD and her frustrated efforts to repair her house.

Suu Kyi also spends her time reading Buddhist religious texts, travel and history books, including ones written in French, listening to the radio and watching television which can only receive state-run channels, Nyan Win said.

The lawyer said he is allowed to give Suu Kyi censored copies of the magazines Time and Newsweek. He also gave her 20 French books she had requested.

“She asked me for many ‘international’ books,” Nyan Win said. “But I am not always allowed to give them to her.” However, on Thursday, he managed to present to her a book as a gift from Nobel Economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz who visited Burma in December. During the trip, Stiglitz asked Nyan Win to give his book Globalization and Its Discontent to Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi is serving an 18-month term of house arrest, reduced from an original sentence of three years’ hard labor pronounced by a court in Insein Prison last August. At the end of the farcical trial, Home Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Maung Oo appeared in court with a special order from junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe stating that as Suu Kyi is the daughter of national hero Gen Aung San, her sentence should be halved and the rest suspended.

Maung Oo also read out a puzzling clause stating that if she behaved “well” at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her, Suu Kyi would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired.

Suu Kyi has been detained for nearly 14 of the last 20 years, mostly under house arrest. Analysts generally concur that the trial was a political showcase and that the military junta want to keep her under arrest ahead of the elections in 2010.

Suu Kyi has already served almost half of her 18-month house arrest period which began in May, 2009. In view of Maung Oo’s hint of her release in November, the regime’s message to Suu Kyi appears to be that she is not behaving well and needs to serve the full sentence.

Suu Kyi has described Maung Oo’s recent indication that she will be released in November as totally “unfair.” According to Nyan Win, Suu Kyi believes the comment is obstructing the awaited court ruling over her final appeal.

Asked if Suu Kyi could expect to be released in November when her 18-month house arrest expires, Nyan Win said: “It would not be unusual if a person is released at the end of his or her punishment.”

Using a Burmese proverb, Nyan Win added: “But, if she is not really released at that time, then they [the Burmese rulers] would look like swallowing their own vomit.”

“What is good behavior after all?” Nyan Win asked. “We assume that she has been behaving well because she does not break the terms of the restrictions on her.”

Suu Kyi and the NLD were reprimanded by the state-run media last month, however, for making public the text of letters she wrote to Than Shwe.

“The leak of Aung San Suu Kyi’s letters to the media before they were received by the leader of the government is intended to damage the image of the ruling government, and this might delay the processes of the other side [the military government],” said an article carried by state-run newspapers.

Suu Kyi’s life in detention has been made even more uncomfortable by the official obstruction of her attempts to repair her home, which has fallen in disrepair. Work on repairing the house was halted after objections were lodged by her brother and other relatives.

The building is now in an unsafe condition, according to Nyan Win.

Suu Kyi’s piano, for so long a symbol of her detention, has not worked for some years; yet she was said to be still spending some of her time on artistic activities.

The author Alan Clements, who wrote the book Voice of Hope, based mainly on interviews with her after she was released her first house arrest in 1995, told The Irrawaddy her life in detention had become progressively more difficult.

“The most prominent features I remember were her serenity and sincerity,” Clements said. “I did not detect a moment of ill will or vindictiveness towards anyone, including her oppressors.

“To the contrary, she would often remark how she genuinely wishes for the day that we can all be friends, how much better it would be for the entire country.”

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