Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Reporter's Diary - Aun San Suu Kyi Trial - 19-20 May 2009

The Irrawaddy News

Tuesday, May 19

INSEIN, Rangoon—Since 8 o’clock in the morning, curious locals, NLD supporters and devotees of Aung San Suu Kyi have been gathering on Myochit Street in Insein. The road is blocked with wooden barricades and barbed wire.

Two or three hundred yards down the road, Burma’s most famous daughter is on trial on trumped-up charges of harboring a foreigner at her Inya Lake home.

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At 9:50, a white saloon car from the American embassy pulls up and the barricade is widened to let it pass toward the prison.

In front of Insein Market, trucks full of Swin Ahh Shin members frown at the crowd. The notorious junta-backed thugs appear drunk, their bloodshot eyes staring menacingly at passers-by.

Although the authorities have allowed Insein Market to reopen, most of the shops remain closed. On the upper story of the market, policemen with video cameras keep a watch on customers.

Everyone wants to know what will happen today. Whether milling around the street or sitting in a tea shop, they all keep an eye on the barricade.

“I would very much like to see someone rescuing Auntie Suu from the prison. Perhaps like a Hollywood movie where marines drop from helicopters behind the enemy lines to rescue their comrades,” says a 30-year-old NLD member.

“For what they have done to Daw Suu, they are dogs!” an old woman cries out emotionally, starling several people in the crowd. “Everybody knows who is right and who is wrong in this case!”

The atmosphere is intense and has been growing steadily. You get the feeling that if a public demonstration broke out spontaneously everyone would join in.

“I don’t think the junta will dare convict her because of the international community,” says an elderly man sitting in a café near Maha Myaing Movie Theatre.

His friend disagrees. “No, I think they have put her in prison and they won’t let her out. They don’t care about the international community and they always do whatever they want anyway,” he states.

“Remember, they even beat up Buddhist monks,” he whispers.

The two old men continue their conversation in hushed tones. They recall the words they have heard on the radio in English: “denounce,” “concerned,” “call for her immediate release,” “inhumane treatment.”

By noon the sun is scorching hot and everyone tries to find shade. The police, the Swin Ahh Shin, the NLD members and curious locals regard each other suspiciously.

Every few minutes, each person turns to look at beyond the barricade toward Insein Prison. No noise or movement comes from that direction.

They continue waiting and watching, their faces sketched with mixed emotions of anxiety, anger, fear and hope.

Wednesday, May 20

Supporters and members of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party gather around 11 a.m. next to Insein Township’s fire station. Security personnel and soldiers stand behind the road block.

Several people are huddled together talking about the news that five journalists from local media and five correspondents from the international media have been allowed inside the courtroom.

At 11:30, an embassy vehicle crosses Insein Railway Bridge. Onlookers wave and smile in its direction.

“The government seems to be heeding the international pressure at last,” said an NLD member with a satisfied grin.

Several hundred people watch as the embassy vehicle slowly passes through the makeshift barrier on the road to Insein Prison.

At one o’clock, more people join the crowd at the bridge and outside the fire station.
There is the click and flash of cameras from Myoma Market as shadowy figures continue taking pictures of the spectators.

But the crowd’s mood seems more confident now. They make no attempt to hide their faces and talk animatedly among themselves while soldiers, police, Swam Ar Shin members and plain-clothes informers stand their ground.

By two o’clock, many of Suu Kyi’s supporters are openly self-assured. They stare back at the government photographers defiantly. One young man in a dark blue shirt gives a two-fingered salute to a cameraman.

The embassy vehicles come out one by one at 2:30 in the afternoon. The crowd smile and wave quietly as the vehicles pass.

Following the cars come the 10 Burmese journalists who were allowed inside the courtroom. One of them gives a thumbs-up to the crowd and mouths, “Everything is good.”

An elderly woman dressed in a white blouse and Yaw longyi turns to her colleagues and smiles. “Truth never collapses,” she says.

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