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One Hundred and Eight Presents for Aung San Suu Kyi


 A Collaborative Publishing Event


Please read the following and then launch a new page to add your own contribution to the project.




21st November, 2007


Last week Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to meet her colleagues in the National League for Democracy (NLD) for the first time in four years. She was also told that she will be allowed to "negotiate" with members of the State Peace and Development Council, Burma's ruling junta. At the end of the meeting she was taken back to the house where she lives in enforced isolation, behind barbed wire and under armed guard, without so much as a telephone.


If these gestures were intended to show that the generals have moderated their policies under pressure from world opinion, they had the opposite effect: they only underlined their intransigence, and the atrocious cruelty of their treatment of the woman who won Burma's general election in 1991 at the head of the NLD, but who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.


Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, is regarded by millions of people around the world with love and admiration on account of the depth of her commitment to Burma's freedom. But we have no way to express these feelings: no possibility to meet her, to write to her, or to communicate with her in any way.


Recently Annie Lennox announced that she and some friends had raised the money to buy Suu a new grand piano - she is a gifted classical pianist - and that she plans to escort the instrument to Rangoon and hand it over in person. It is hard to imagine this brutal regime permitting this innocent gesture, when they have for years prevented Suu from meeting her children, and refused a visa for her terminally ill husband so she could see him one final time before he died.


But Annie was responding to an urge that anybody who knows a little about what has been going on in Burma for the last 20 years will understand.


Now, with a new website, a wiki and eventually a magnificent book, anyone who has felt that urge will have a way and a place in which to express it.


The project, launching this week, is THE BOOK OF FREEDOM: 108 Presents for Suu. One hundred and eight is an auspicious number for Buddhists. 


The site, the wiki and the book will, once the word gets around, be bombarded by presents for Suu, sent by anyone and everyone, Burmese and non-Burmese, world-famous and obscure.


Taking a grand piano to the house on Inya Lake may be problematic. But we will have a picture of a grand piano, perhaps a picture of Suu playing her old, now ruined instrument; the site may have a recording of her playing, or of someone else playing a piece of which she is known to be fond.


Presents from her colleagues during the great uprising of 1988 - who have not seen her for years and years - could include memorabilia from those frenzied months, charged with hope and despair. Photos of friends and comrades who died in prison, gifts from those who went into exile and are now fighting Burma's long struggle for freedom in Thailand, in Norway, in Britain or the US. And so on.


The presents will be words, thoughts, pictures, photographs, wishes, memories, evocations, poems, prayers; contributions simple and sophisticated, brief and not-so-brief, which celebrate her life and in particular the 20 years of it which she has dedicated to her nation's freedom. They will come from comrades in her party, friends from her life in India and Oxford, famous people who support her struggle, many others who have a present to give her.


The project will be a negation of her enforced solititude, a celebration of the fact that she is still alive, still fighting, and still true to her commitment.


Famous figures will include Gordon Brown (who includes a powerful essay about her in his book on courage), the Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel and Desmond Tutu, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Bianca Jagger, Noam Chomsky, Fergal Keane, John Pilger, Larry Gagosian.


The book in which the project culminates will also contain a long report, entitled THE DIFFERENCE SHE MADE, on Suu Kyi's role in Burma's tragic history over the past twenty years.


The project is guided by Peter Popham, foreign correspondent of  The Independent  and Claudia Cragg, author, journalist and broadcaster.




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