International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Burma
and the Voice of Hope
San Suu Kyi: The Voice of Hope by Alan Clements
ISBN 13: 9781846041433 | ISBN 10: 1846041430
Reviewed by David Calleja
political, social and economic tragedy that exists in present day
Burma is a permanent stain on humanity. In the words of U Tin U,
Deputy Leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), "Burma
is a prison within a prison." The thoughts, movements and actions
of 50 million civilians are under constant surveillance by a government
obsessed with maintaining control. Yet the thoughts and words of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi provide a beacon of hope that a democratic
and unified Burma will someday prevail.
Alan Clements travelled to Rangoon in December 1995 to meet secretly
with Daw Suu Kyi and recorded a series of dialogues with the leader
of the NLD. Clements involvement with Burma goes back 30 years.
He is the first American to be ordained a Buddhist monk, and like every
foreign journalist entering Burma, he has also encountered the wrath
of the military junta by being deported. Between his extensive knowledge
of the domestic situation, and Daw Suu Kyis wisdom and elegance
in answering every question put before her, readers will understand
just how Buddhism is closely connected with politics in Burma, and why
the concepts of faith and metta (loving kindness) are among the building
blocks of any genuine democracy.
Each chapter is named after a sentence that typifies the beliefs, sacrifice
and struggle that best summarise key points in Daw Suu Kyis existence.
It also demonstrates the enormous love that she shares for every person
who has risked their life to hear speeches delivered from her compound.
She also speaks repeatedly of compassion towards members of the SPDC
and declares that they too can show love for the people of Burma. This
may surprise readers, but perfectly encompasses everything she stands
for. One cannot help but show admiration for any individual willing
to risk their life to hear a political icon outline the real situation
in Burma, and be prepared to listen to how and why civilians are suffering.
In the process of unravelling Daw Suu Kyis deepest thoughts, Clements
uncovers a defiant individual that will not be intimidated by weaponry
in the hands of authority, while uncovering the keys to life; love for
humanity, education and an open heart. Daw Suu Kyi speaks modestly and
candidly in describing her upbringing, the role of her parents in shaping
her values, her frenetic daily routine while under house arrest, life
abroad and eventual homecoming to Burma, and unrelenting commitment
to non-violence. The appeal of the dialogue is that Daw Suu Kyis
answers to some of Clements lengthy questions and points are presented
plainly and with fervour as if addressing a crowd of tens of thousands
of her supporters. There is no place for political spin within these
pages, which enhances the readability.
One theme that resonates through the entire book is the tenacity of
the people of Burma and their ability to adopt a sense of humour in
spite of the horrific conditions that they face. It takes a special
human being to constantly laugh throughout years of suffering. Clements
has clearly done his background research to prompt thought-provoking
answers from Daw Suu Kyi and in doing so, delivers possibly the greatest
insight into the worlds most famous female political icon. It
is impossible to have conceived the danger facing Clements and Daw Suu
Kyi, making the discussions and writing of this publication all the
Throughout the course of the book, the reader becomes acutely aware
of the volatile situation that Burma has faced in recent decades, a
scenario sadly prevalent to this day. The facts itself relating to Burmas
political, social and economic demise are not new, but Clements aims
to provide shock therapy and reveal to the world the extent and frequency
of abuse. He succeeds in piercing the heart and soul deeply enough and
warn us that if we do not regard Burma as our highest priority, then
it is not just the people that face the harshest consequences of tyranny.
As a society, we will all carry the burden of watching humans slowly
die without directly intervening.
Aung San Suu Kyi: The Voice Of Hope reminds us that the forgotten
people of Burma are not just the dead who have been forced to onto their
knees for so much of their lives, but the living voiceless. Alan Clements
has presented us a manual for life that crudely tells that the developed
and most powerful leaders on the planet have to stop waiting idly by
for a miracle to occur. This book is the catapult that will launch individuals
into taking immediate action. The message here is loud and clear; use
your rights and privileges to help the long-suffering civilians of Burma
gain their freedom.
© David Calleja May 2009
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