Campaign to free Aung San Suu Kyi at Lady Shri Ram College
New Delhi, 10 Sept: The international campaign to free detained Burmese leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi got a further boost today with Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College organising an exclusive screening of the film “Burma VJ: Reporting from a close country“. Suu Kyi was a distinguished alumna of LSR in 1964. Through powerful imagery and rare footage, the film conveys the struggle for a democratic and free Burma.
The film screening was preceded by a panel discussion on “Suu Kyi – Symbol of Democracy.” Participants included G Parthasarthy, distinguished diplomat; Jaya Jaitly, political and social activist; Ravi Nair, human rights activist and Sagarika Ghose, TV anchor, as moderator, who contributed to a spirited debate.
HH The Dalai Lama in a message said: “I am happy to learn of LSR’s initiative. It is my hope that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi will not be kept captive for long and that under her leadership the people of Burma will soon achieve their aspirations for which she worked so hard and so courageously.”
Also present were Burmese monks Ashin Pannasiri, who escaped from jail, and Ashin Thavara, who features in ‘Burma VJ,” and Thin Thin Aung, Women’s League of Burma. Ashin Pannasiri’s poignant narration of his experiences of the Saffron Uprising of 2007 and torture at the hands of the military moved the audience. “I never give up hope,” he said. The audience included LSR students & faculty; civil society; Mizzima activists, academia and media.
Mr Parthasarathy hoped international pressure would result in more representative outcome of next year’s polls. He felt sanctions did not help the poor or hurt the junta. He advocated a realistic approach to the Burmese issue. “Nowhere does a military give up power at once; they do so in an evolutionary manner. We have to work with others in the world, we have to persuade ASEAN.”
Ms Jaitly passionately exhorted the audience to see the values Suu Kyi represents rather than only see her as a symbol. She felt all countries need to take independent action; a letter to the UN Secretary General by a group of nations could achieve precious little. Focus on the scenarios post the 2010 polls, she advised.
Mr Nair appealed for introspection and offered several ideas for future initiatives, including public diplomacy, to keep up the momentum. He went on to analyse “how to deal with generals who had no eyesight, insight or foresight.” He appealed for action at legislative, parliamentary and media levels.
Dr Meenakshi Gopinath, Principal, LSR, in her welcome address said, “We feel empowered by the struggle of this illustrious alumna for democracy and human rights in Burma. Even as we celebrate Suu Kyi’s extraordinary courage and sacrifice we exhort the international community to put pressure on their governments to work for her release from a detention based on a verdict of the puppet court of a military junta that is as grotesque as it is inhuman and illegal.” Dr Gopinath read out touching excerpts from Suu Kyi’s writings during her time in India.
Ms Thin Thin Aung appealed for more support from the Indian government. “I wish they spoke to Burmese refugees too to get an alternative points of view….Newspapers don’t write about us.” She felt only Suu Kyi could unite the Burmese people.
As part of the campaign LSR organised an essay competition for its students on “Suu Kyi – a symbol of Democracy” or “Suu Kyi – an indomitable spirit.” The 1st prize of Rs 5,000 was awarded to Bedatri Datta Choudhury; the 2nd prize of Rs 3,000 was awarded to Ria Sen, Ispita Ghosh and Anamika Kumari, besides 15 consolation prizes.
A display of messages to Suu Kyi by LSR students evoked a strong response.
On 28 August, LSR organised a Cross Country Run for the release and freedom of Suu Kyi. The Run saw participation of over 600 students.
A video footage of the event may be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCWiBIP3t90
NOTES TO EDITORS:
· Burma VJ tells the story of a small team of video journalists from the Democratic Voice of Burma, an exiled news organisation based in Denmark that has undercover reporters inside the sealed country. Directed by Danish filmmaker Anders Østergaard. For detail about the film please visit: http://burmavjmovie.com/about_the_film/
· For photographs of today’s event & background on Suu Kyi please log on to http://html.lsrcollege.org/aung1.asp . For further detail please contact: Ms R Shroff (9810020262), Dr Kanika Khandelwal (9212705152) or Ms K Kanthan (9350814552). For videos of today’s event please visit youtube.com
· If you would like to express solidarity please leave a message for Suu Kyi on www.64forsuu.org, a website created to commemorate her 64th birthday 19 June this year; it will remain online until November. Several well known personalities have signed up including HH The Dalai Lama.
THE BURMESE SITUATION
Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), a unique heroic world leader, is only one of over 2,000 political prisoners in Burma. She is the legitimate democratic leader of Burma today; respected both in her country and around the world.
Political and humanitarian conditions in the country continue to deteriorate. When over 140,000 were killed and millions made destitute by Cyclone Nargis last year the world’s efforts to help were resisted, a peaceful uprising by monks in 2007 was violently quashed, ethnic minorities are persecuted and under armed attack. 8 August marked the 21st anniversary of the 8/8/88 Burmese uprising.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been in some form of detention or another since 14 years. Court verdict 11 August said she’ll have to spend an extra 18 months in detention.
The elections that this regime plan for 2010 would win overwhelming public support in Burma, which is the very reason for trumped up charges and a bogus trial. Security Council statement of 13 August urges the regime to create a dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups. UN Secy Gen Ban Ki Moon visited in July 09.
“BURMA VJ: Reporting from a closed country”: “Burma VJ” celebrates the courage of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a group of underground journalists who risked their lives to document the 2007 uprising against the repressive military regime. The film, a prizewinner at Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, is assembled mostly from rare footage shot by brave anonymous reporters, has powerful images and conveys a strong message.
From an environment where they are not allowed to film, these journos upload the footage over the Internet or smuggle it to Thailand. From there it goes to Oslo, Norway where it’s broadcast back into Burma. Foreign TV crew are banned from entering the country, so it is left to Joshua and his crew to document the events and establish a lifeline to the surrounding world. The characters are ordinary people struggling for a better, humane future for Burma.
Danish director Anders Ostergaard says in an interview to Time-out magazine, “I had an obligation to entertain, to keep the audience totally engulfed in the film. But I didn’t feel I had to manipulate anything. It’s dramatic in itself.”
The http://www.64forSuu.org website, which calls for the release of Suu Kyi and all of Burma’s political prisoners, was launched 27 May 09 with the backing of major celebrities and a coalition of NGOs and trade unions. The website aims to become the global hub of the international campaign to release Suu Kyi. http://www.64forSuu.org demonstrates outrage over her continued detention by encouraging high profile individuals and others to write a 64 word message, a “64”, that was delivered on Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday 19 June 09. Thanks to Twitter, the campaign message reached an estimated 5 million people in its first five days.
Organisations supporting the website include: Burma Campaign UK, Amnesty International, the Trades Union Congress, Not On Our Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Society Institute, Human Rights Watch, International Peace Bureau and Avaaz. High-profile supporters with messages include: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Vaclav Havel, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President of the Maldives M Nasheed, the Dalai Lama, Salman Rushdie, Julia Roberts, UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron, Madeleine Albright, Steven Spielberg, Orhan Pamuk,George Clooney, David Beckham, Daniel Craig and others.