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July 31, 2006 | by  | in News |
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Make Some Noise!

It was somewhere in the middle of rural Nepal, at about 4000m elevation that I think I really realised the tragedy in the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, prisoner of conscience and democratically elected leader of Burma. It was day eight of our two-week trek into the Gokyo Valley in the Himalayas. Strange bowel movements and sudden weather changes had us huddling in the meal tent and contemplating our impending doom. Noone dared brave the toilet tent. Dr Jim Duff, our trek leader and self-styled motivator had decided to relieve our minds of the horrors of the night and tell us a story. A nice, comforting, bedtime story. So we snuggled down (yes, snuggled) as Jim recounted his tale of bravery and mystique during the first tourist expedition into Tibet, after its borders were first opened. Accompanying him on his noble quest was one Michael Aris, who, at the completion of the trek, invited Jim to visit him and wife ‘Sue’ at home in the UK. He produced a photo of his family, and who should ‘Sue’ turn out be but none other than Aung San Suu Kyi, the soon to be democratically elected leader of her home country, Burma.

As anyone who has followed her story will know, the rest is history. Upon Suu Kyi’s return to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother, the leader of the ruling socialist party died and mass demonstrations for democracy were violently suppressed. A new military junta took power. “I could not, as my father’s daughter remain indifferent to all that was going on,” she said in a speech made in Rangoon on the 26th of August, 1988.

She helped form the National League for Democracy, was subsequently put under house arrest in 1990, and refused release when the NLD won the 1990 elections. When Michael Aris was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, he was refused a visa entry and it was quite evident that if she left to visit him, she would not be able to return. He died in 1999, without having seen his wife since the time of her imprisonment. Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest today.

Back in Nepal, I slept the fitful sleep of the morally feverous. Or perhaps it was the altitude. It’s hard to say. In any case, having some kind of vague personal connection with the whole tragedy really struck a chord with me. With the US-led ‘crusade’ (nice one, Dubya) for democracy manifesting itself in various areas of the globe, how the hell was such an authoritarian regime still in power? They don’t even pretend to play fair! And with a poster girl like Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and possessed with a Ghandian saintliness, it seems ludicrous that democracy still eludes the people of Burma. But with the ruling elite having renamed the country Myanmar and moved their capital from Yangon to the nomans-jungle land of Pyinmana, apparently on the whim of a fortune teller, little seems to have changed.

Hence, the lovely people at Amnesty on Campus have decided to take action. As part of Amnesty’s annual appeal week we are throwing a massive concert in honour of Aung San Suu Kyi and her brave quest to bring the confusion, and beauty, of democracy to Burma. Or Myanmar. I get confused. The concert is being held at the San Francisco Bathhouse on Saturday 5th August from 9pm onwards. Dazzling us with their renowned musical talent will be those crazy cats from So So Modern, Disasteradio, and relative newcomers Chairman Miaow, the latter definite contenders for coolest band name ever.

This will be So So Modern’s first gig in about three months, so understandably they are very excited about taking to the stage once more, after having gained a nod from ‘the establishment’ with a very flattering spot on Campbell Live. I’d quote them somewhere around here, but their enthusiasm is evidence enough. As the theme for this year’s Freedom Week is ‘Make Some Noise’ I feel it is quite relevant to be fiercely fighting for human rights and dignity and having a rocking time whilst doing so.

To quote Suu Kyi herself, “Please use your liberty to promote ours”. That’s the liberty to choose a night of quality music and good times, folks. And stand up for human rights whilst doing so. Vive la revolucion!

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