Al-Jazeera television recently aired the following Burma Campaign UK report on the plight of Karen refugees on the Burma-Thai border:
‘Burmese pro-democracy campaigner Dr Aung San Suu Kyi will be given the Freedom of the City of Glasgow in absentia, at the City Chambers at noon on Wednesday, March 4.
A representative of the iconic politician, Dr Thuang Htun, will accept the award on her behalf. Dr Suu Kyi remains under house arrest imposed by Burma’s military regime.
Dr Htun is a representative for United Nations Affairs for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. He also represents the democracy movement at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In advance of accepting the award on Dr Suu Kyi’s behalf, Dr Htun commented on the irony of the situation. He said: “The fact that Dr Aung San Suu Kyi should be given the freedom of a city far from her home, at a time that she is denied even basic freedoms in her own country is a sharp reminder of the reality of today’s Burma.”
Lord Provost Bob Winter will present the honour to Dr Htun who will also be presented with a silver plate and a crested scroll. He will then be guest of honour at a special lunch.
The Lord Provost said: “It is with profound respect and admiration for Dr Aung San Suu Kyi’s unflinching bravery that the Council has conferred upon her the Freedom of the City of Glasgow. This is tempered with frustration that she cannot be here today, in person.
“However, I am delighted that her loyal representative Dr Htun has been able to visit our city to accept the award in her absence. He goes with our very best wishes for Dr Suu Kyi, a shining beacon of hope in her country.”
The Freedom of the City Award was originally proposed by Amnesty International and Glasgow Women’s Library.
John Watson, Amnesty’s International’s Scottish Programme Director, said:
“Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration to the people of Burma and to those around the world who applaud bravery and dignity in the face of oppression. Amnesty International congratulates Glasgow City Council on its decision to present her with its highest award”
Dr Adele Patrick of Glasgow Women’s Library said: “As part of Glasgow Women’s Library’s ongoing efforts to celebrate, uncover, and promote women’s cultural and political achievements locally and globally we warmly congratulate Glasgow City Council’s decision to offer Dr Aung San Suu Kyi the Freedom of the City.
“We acknowledge how this award raises the profile of the life and work of this remarkable woman and, by extension the people of Burma. We look forward to more pioneering women being added to this roll of honour.”
Dr Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, wartime leader of Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL, assassinated 1947). She has endured prolonged periods of detention and imprisonment over the past 20 years by Burma’s oppressive regime.
She founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988 and was swiftly put under house arrest with the offer of freedom if she left Burma.
In 1990 the NLD won the general election decisively and once again Dr Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. The election result was nullified by a military junta. This was also the year she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Accepting the prize Dr Suu Kyi said: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. “
The following year she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and donated the $1.3 million prize money to establish a health and education trust for the people of Burma’.
I recall the closing words from an album that is very fastly growing on me: ‘Choose your enemies carefully ‘cos they will define you/Make them interesting ‘cos in some ways they will mind you/They’re not there in the beginning but when the story ends/Gonna last with you longer than your friends’.