Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is at long last free and has been able to reunite with her son. But many other families still await a similar reunion.
29 November, for the first time since her release from house arrest
on 13 November, Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied
by her son, Kim Aris, met with relatives of some of
meeting, which took place at the Pannitayama Monastery in
gathering marked the third anniversary of the death of the mother of
Htay Kwe, an imprisoned leader of the 88 Generation Students group who
is currently serving a 65-year sentence in remote Buthitaung Prison
It was a bittersweet moment for many who were present. Some mothers said that seeing Suu Kyi reunited with her son after more than a decade apart made them long to see their imprisoned children. But they also said they felt encouraged by the sight of the two together and were comforted by the knowledge that they are part of a much larger family - the family of all those who suffer for having the courage of their convictions.
'I felt happy when I met with Daw Suu and her son. It was like meeting with my own family,' said the mother of Dee Nyein Lin, who is serving a 15-year, six-month sentence in Hkamti Prison, Sagaing Division, for taking part in anti-government demonstrations.
Suu Kyi, too, this encounter must have brought back memories of the
price she has paid for her role in leading
since she returned to
Aris died of prostate cancer in 1999 at the age of 53, after having been denied visas to see his wife for the three years leading up to his death. While her family supported her, Suu Kyi said in a recent interview that her sons had suffered particularly badly.
'They haven't done very well after the breakup of the family, especially after their father died, because Michael was a very good father,' she said. 'Once he was no longer there, things were not as easy as they might have been.'
Aris, who is also known by his Burmese name, Htein Lin, is married and
has two young children. He works as a carpenter in
Even more than the sight of the thousands of jubilant supporters who had gathered outside her home to witness the moment of her release, Suu Kyi's reunion with her son must have been deeply moving for her.
that she has been freed, Suu Kyi has declared that winning the freedom
'I don't think actually if we get to the negotiating table, the military will say we don't believe in the release of political prisoners. I don't think it works like that. That's one of my top priorities,' she told CNN in a recent interview.
now, however, the dream of
is also important to remember that political prisoners are not alone
in being cut off from their families. Tens of thousands of Burmese exiles
around the world have also been forcibly separated from their families
by the repressive policies of
a nation can be compared to a family,
But eventually, if we are not to fall even farther behind our neighbours and the rest of the world, we will have to take steps to achieve some sort of reconciliation. As a first step toward this grand 'family reunion', the country's rulers should start reuniting the country's political prisoners with their families and allowing Burma to become whole again, one family at a time.
is news editor of The
*Third World Resurgence No. 242/243, October-November 2010, pp 58-59