Two weekends ago, after class on Thursday night at Freedom House, I boarded an overnight bus to Bangkok for the weekend (screening Rocky, dubbed in Thai). When I returned to the street of the guesthouse I was staying at on Saturday, there was a cluster of people clogging traffic that turned out to be a momentary audience for student demonstrators for a Free Burma group. It was the 21st anniversary of the 8.8.88 uprising – the height of the days of protests in Burma (August 8, 1988) and the launch of a massive strike. The uprising swelled across Burmese land into the ethnic minority states, with university students leading the charge, joined by monks, teachers, children, professionals, farmers, government workers, and even some military personnel. It was the beginning of a persistent struggle for democracy that spans longer than my own life, punctuated only by occasional eruptions of dissent from under the military’s blanket of suppression and seasoned with the death, disappearance, or imprisonment of thousands of activists, brothers, friends, wives. The students I saw in Bangkok were Thai, but demonstrating in a tourist-infested area with English signs that quotes from democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi that implored: “Please use your liberty to promote ours”.
It has been 19 years since her party – the National League for Democracy – won in a democratic election and the military junta placed her under house arrest. Tuesday, August 11, 2009, the new court decision was made: Aung San is to be under house arrest for another 18 months, a tidily convenient period to keep her out of the 2010 election the junta is planning. Until then, when the winds may change with whatever events and outcomes emerge from the gathering storm clouds of that election, we might expect to continue receiving truckloads of new refugees turned migrant workers and prostitutes, bartered on the streets of Bangkok.
You can join the international outcry against the sentence and for her release with action messages from sites like Amnesty International: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=12656.