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Sweaters knit by Myanmar’s Suu Kyi sell for $123K.

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 photo, presenters show a hand-knit woolen sweater, made by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu kyi, during an auction at a fundraising concert to mark the 2nd anniversary of her National League for Democracy Party's education network, at Peoples Square in Yangon, Myanmar. The sweater was sold at an auction in Myanmar for almost $50,000. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

    Enlarge PhotoAssociated Press/Khin Maung Win – In this Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 photo, presenters show a hand-knit woolen sweater, made by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu kyi, during an auction at a fundraising concert …more 


YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s cash-strapped opposition party is tapping into the prestige of its leader: Two sweaters hand-knit by Aung San Suu Kyi have been auctioned for $123,000.

A green-and-white sweater with a floral design sold at a Friday night auction to an anonymous bidder for 63 million kyat, or $74,120.

On Thursday, a Myanmar-based radio station won a bidding war for a multicolored V-neck that fetched $49,000.

Suu Kyi has not publicly reacted to the success of her party’s two-day fundraiser, but aides said she was pleased with the results.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is satisfied with the auction and the donations received,” close aide Ko Ni said Saturday. “She needs a lot of cash to carry out projects for the welfare of the people.” Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.

The auction was part of a fundraising event organized by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party to raise money for education of poor children and health projects in Myanmar, an impoverished Southeast Asian nation also known as Burma.

Both sweaters were knitted by Suu Kyi at least 25 years ago when she was living in England and raising her two children, Ko Ni told The Associated Press.

“She made them when she was busy working, studying and taking care of her children,” Ko Ni said. “She wants to send the message that people should not stay idle but be diligent.”

Suu Kyi, a 67-year-old former political prisoner and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has become Myanmar’s biggest celebrity as the country transitions from a half-century of military rule. She is generally guarded about the family she left behind in England — but the auction indicates a new willingness to share her family history with an adoring public.

Ahead of the auction, Suu Kyi asked her brother-in-law in England to ship some of her personal belongings, which arrived in nine boxes on Wednesday just in time for the auction, Ko Ni said.

The Oxford graduate was raising two young sons with her late British husband when she returned to Myanmar in 1988 to nurse her dying mother. As daughter of the country’s independence hero, Gen. Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947 when she was 2, Suu Kyi found herself thrust into the forefront of pro-democracy protests against the military regime.

Over the next two decades, she became the world’s most famous political prisoner and won the adoration of her people, who call her “Amay Suu” — or “Mother Suu,” partly because she chose to stay with them over her own children. She declined opportunities to leave Myanmar, fearing she would not be allowed to re-enter.

Since her release from house arrest in 2010, Suu Kyi has reunited with her sons and completed a stunning trajectory from housewife to political prisoner to opposition leader in Parliament.

The proud new owner of the $49,000 red, green and blue V-neck sold Thursday said it was worth the money.

“It is priceless because the sweater was made my ‘Amay’ herself,” said Daw Nan Mauk Lao Sai, chairwoman of Shwe FM radio station.

“I bought the sweater because I value the warmth and security it will give,” she said, adding that she plans to hang it up in the station’s office for the whole staff to see.


Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok contributed to this report.


By AYE AYE WIN | Associated Press

Suu Kyi decries crackdown that injured protesters.


MONYWA, Myanmar (AP) — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyipublicly criticized the forcible crackdown on protesters at a mine in northwestern Myanmar and said Friday that the public needed an explanation of the violence that injured dozens, including Buddhist monks.

At the same time, she indicated in her speech to villagers that the protesters may have to accept a compromise for the sake of national honor.

Now serving in parliament after years as a political prisoner of the long-ruling junta, Suu Kyi received a hero’s welcome in the town of Monywa, where residents were rattled by the government’s biggest crackdown on demonstrations since reformist President Thein Seintook office last year.

She was scheduled to visit the area before the crackdown to hear the protesters’ grievances and said she would try to negotiate or mediate in the conflict over the mine, which protesters say is causing environmental and social problems.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000, Suu Kyi made the point she did not want confrontation but said people had the right to ask why the authorities cracked down so harshly on the non-violent protesters.

“I want to ask, ‘What was their purpose of doing this?’ Frankly, there’s no need to act like this,” she said, and people in the crowd shouted back: “Right!”

“I’m not saying this to agitate people,” she continued. “I never persuade people by agitating. I explain to people so that they can decide by thinking.”

Activists and Buddhist monks who contend the Letpadaung copper mine is causing environmental and social problems had occupied the mine for 11 days before police used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs to break up the protest early Thursday.

Weapons that protesters described as flare guns caused severe burns to protesters and set shelters ablaze. A nurse at a Monywa hospital said 27 monks and one other person were admitted there to be treated for burns.

Suu Kyi visited with injured protesters Thursday, as well as meeting with mining company officials and local activists. She was to meet security officials Friday.

She has taken a soft line on the conflict over the project, noting that many people asked her to help stop the project at once, but saying she did not know details of the original contract and a parliamentary investigating committee had yet to do its work.

She went on to suggest that Myanmar should honor the contracts establishing the project, especially since they involved a neighboring country. The mine is a joint venture between a military-controlled holding company and a Chinese mining company.

She said the deals were done under the previous military regime without taking into account the wishes of the people, and “We are suffering as a result of these,” but that Myanmar should honor its commitments nonetheless.

She said that even in some cases where the people’s interest was not taken into account, the agreement should be followed “so that the country’s image will not be hurt.”

“You can’t decide that you can’t keep the promise that you didn’t give,” she said.

The government’s position is similar, with senior officials publicly stating that that the protesters’ demands to stop operating the mine risked scaring off foreign investment in Myanmar’s long-neglected economy.

Although she is head of the parliamentary opposition, Suu Kyi has usually counseled moderation in problematic issues.

The protest is the latest major example of increased activism by citizens since the elected government took over last year. Street demonstrations have been legalized, and are generally tolerated, though detentions have occurred in sensitive cases.

Political and economic liberalization under Thein Sein has won praise from Western governments, which have eased sanctions imposed on the previous military government because of its poor record on human and civil rights.

However, the military’s position in Myanmar’s government remains strong, and some critics fear that democratic gains could be temporary.

The mine is a joint venture between China’s Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., and most people here remain suspicious of the military and see China as an aggressive and exploitive investor that helped support its rule.


By By YADANA HTUN | Associated Press

Jilted Suu Kyi asks India to stand by democracy in Myanmar.

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged India on Wednesday to stand byMyanmar on its journey to democracy, on her first trip to Myanmar’s neighbor since it dropped its support for her democracy movement two decades ago in favor of the ruling junta.

Suu Kyi spent part of her youth in Delhi and was close to independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru but, after first backing her democracy movement, India began courting the junta as part of a “Look East” policy partly aimed at competing with China.

“We have not yet achieved the goal of democracy, we are still trying, and we hope that in this last, I hope, and most difficult phase the people of India will stand by us and walk by us,” Suu Kyi said, in a memorial lecture for Nehru.

“I was saddened to feel that we had drawn away from India, or rather that India had drawn away from us, during our very difficult days, but I always had faith in the lasting friendship between our two countries.”

India’s shift in loyalties began when Suu Kyi was under house arrest in 1993. At that time, China was gaining access to energy resources in Myanmar, which is located on Indian Ocean sea routes and is at the crossroads of South and East Asia.

Under a series of democracy reforms begun by President Thein Sein last year, Suu Kyi has been allowed back into politics. Her visit to India follows trips to the United States and Britain.

The lecture was attended by much of India’s current leadership and also by Nehru’s great-grandson Rahul Gandhi, who may run for prime minister in 2014.


Rahul’s mother Sonia, the leader of the Congress party and perhaps India’s most powerful politician, sat next to Suu Kyi, who earlier had lunch with the Gandhis and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Suu Kyi also met Singh for a short time without any aides present, his office said.

She talked with Indian officials about ethnic violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where India is building a port, and said it needed a “firm but sensitive” approach, a senior source at the Indian Foreign Ministry said.

Suu Kyi, a devout Buddhist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has refused to condemn either side in the violence between the majority Buddhist population and the Rohingya Muslim minority, prompting criticism from international human rights groups.

At least 169 people have been killed and more than 100,000 Rohingya forced from their homes since June, in what some are calling ethnic cleansing.

Official statistics say Rohingyas, who are stateless because Myanmar considers them all to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, make up 97 percent of the people who fled the latest bout of violence in October. A Reuters investigation found evidence that the wave of attacks was organized.

In an interview with Indian newspaper The Hindu published this week, Suu Kyi seemed to blame the violence partly on immigration.

“For years I have been insisting, and the National League for Democracy also, that we have to do something about the porous border with Bangladesh because it is going to lead some day or the other to grave problems,” she said in the interview.

(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


By Frank Jack Daniel | Reuters

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi says willing to be president.


YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared her willingness on Monday to serve as president, and her party’s intention to amend the constitution to allow her to do so.

Suu Kyi said it is her duty as leader of the National League for Democracy party to be willing to take the executive office if that is what the people want. Myanmar’s next election is in 2015.

“I’m a leader of a political party. As a political party leader, I also have to have the courage to be president. If that is what the people want, I will do so,” Suu Kyi told a news conference.

Responding to a question, she said a clause in the constitution that effectively bars her from the job is one of several her party wants to change.

Suu Kyi returned last week from a 17-day trip in the United States, where she was feted as a hero of democracy.

Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein also visited the U.S. last month. Thein Sein, a former general, has launched a series of political reforms since taking office last year after almost five decades of repressive military rule.

In an interview with the BBC during his trip, he said he could accept the idea of Suu Kyi taking his job.

“Whether she will become a leader of the nation depends on the will of the people. If the people accept her, then I will have to accept her,” Thein Sein said.

Suu Kyi’s party boycotted the last election in 2010, saying several aspects of the election law were unfair and undemocratic. It agreed to run in by-elections earlier this year after Thein Sein’s party had the laws amended.

However, Suu Kyi’s party still wants to change several clauses in the constitution. Some give the military enough unelected seats in parliament to effectively bar constitutional change.

Another bars anyone from the presidency whose parent, spouse or child enjoys the privileges of being the citizen of another country. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and the couple had two sons, who live outside of Myanmar.

Even though Suu Kyi’s party holds only a small number of seats in parliament, she said she believes that other lawmakers may also be agreeable to the changes, noting that “parliament has more democracy than I expected.”

“To amend the constitution has been one of our policies since we ran in the by-elections. We will keep trying to amend it — not only for me to be president, we will also amend other things,” she said.


By YADANA HTUN | Associated Press

Suu Kyi cautiously optimistic for Myanmar future.


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Thousands of elated supporters greeted Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with rapturous cheers and a standing ovation as she took to an arena stage in an Indiana city that is home to one of the largest Burmese communities in the United States.

The 67-year-old Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing Myanmar’s military rulers and was recently elected a member of parliament, is on a 17-day tour of the United States. She has already met with President Barack Obama and received the Congressional Gold Medal. Suu Kyi voiced optimism for democracy in her Southeast Asian home.

“The important thing is to learn how to resolve problems. How to face them and how to find the right answers through discussion and debate,” the Nobel Laureate told the approximately 3,000 people gathered at the Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“We should all have a conscience and not exploit our role in politics,” she said. Suu Kyi delivered her speech in Burmese with an English translation by video.

Thousands of Burmese refugees live in Fort Wayne, and hundreds of supporters lined up outside the arena hours before Suu Kyi was due to speak. As the doors opened at 7:30 a.m., supporters flooded inside to claim the best seats.

Factory worker Kaung Shein, 42, said he had been among the approximately 1 million students who took part in a failed pro-democracy uprising to protest Burma’s military-backed regime in August 1988. Oxford-educated Suu Kyi rose to prominence during that period.

“We are from the 88 Generation,” Kaung Shein said. “We align with her. … We are very excited to be here. We’ve been waiting for 20 years.”

Thousands of the 1988 protesters were killed and tens of thousands more — including Suu Kyi — spent years as political prisoners. Her National League for Democracy party was for years stymied by the junta’s iron grip on the country, but Suu Kyi voiced cautious hope.

“The differences and problems we have amongst ourselves, I think we can join hands and reconcile and move forward and solve any problems,” she said.

Myanmar’s half century of military rule has made the country something of a pariah in the international community, inviting decades of crippling sanctions. But President Thein Sein has introduced political and economic reforms in recent years, and his separate visit this week to the United Nations General Assembly — the first to the U.S. by a Myanmar leader in more than 40 years — raised hopes that some of those restrictions could be eased.

Since 1991, when a single Burmese refugee resettled in Fort Wayne — about two hours north of Indianapolis and 8,000 miles from southeast Asia — thousands more have followed, many of them relocating under a federal program after years in refugee camps in Thailand. They join other political refugees from a host of countries who have made the city a second home since the fall of Saigon in 1975, thanks largely to the help of Catholic Charities.

For some of Fort Wayne’s Burmese residents, Suu Kyi’s visit is the first tangible connection with the homeland some hope to return to one day.

Thiya Ba Kyi, a former dentist who earned an MBA after coming to the U.S. in 1994 and now works for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, wants to be a part of the change Suu Kyi is expected to bring. He said he wants to teach his people, who have no experience of freedom, what democracy is about.

“I would like to move back,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll need educated people who have experience in a democratic country.”

Many Burmese refugees left behind careers and have had to learn new skills while others rely on food stamps to survive.

U Tun Oo was elected to parliament in the 1990 election won by Suu Kyi’s party that was nullified by the military regime and served as finance minister for the elected government in exile. Now Tun Oo, who was a construction engineer in Asia, works in a Fort Wayne factory. When he’s not working, he heads the local branch of Suu Kyi’s party.

“She is the hope for the people,” said Ba Kyi, who helps the Burmese opposition in exile. “She can bring democracy again in Burma.”

But in her Tuesday speech, Suu Kyi cautioned her supporters — this time in English — that she is not infallible.

“A popular leader is not the same as a good leader,” Suu Kyi said. “I hope you keep that in mind.”


Associated Press writer Charles Wilson contributed to this report.


By TOM COYNE | Associated Press

Events in the life of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi‘s life has been marked by family tragedy, world travel and a political mission that prompted her to choose Myanmar‘s democracy struggle over her children, whom she left behind in England.

Here are the key events in Suu Kyi’s life that aides and biographers say shaped the stoic, pragmatic, eloquent woman whose sacrifices and struggles have earned her a Nobel prize and international acclaim.


— June 19, 1945: Born in Yangon, then called Rangoon. She is the third child and only daughter of national independence hero Gen. Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi, also a prominent public figure.

— July 1947: Aung San and six members of his interim government are assassinated by rivals. Suu Kyi is 2.

— 1952: Suu Kyi’s favorite brother, Aung San Lin, drowns in a pond inside the family’s compound.

— 1960: After finishing high school, Suu Kyi leaves for further study in New Delhi, where her mother is Burma’s ambassador.

— 1964-1967. Suu Kyi studies philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University’s St. Hugh’s College, where she meets future husband and Himalayan scholar Michael Aris.

— 1969-1971: Suu Kyi moves to New York for postgraduate studies at New York University but postpones academic career when a family friend helps get her a job at the United Nations.

— 1970: Aris visits Suu Kyi in New York, after three years of exchanging letters, and they get engaged.

— 1972: Suu Kyi and Michael Aris are married in London and move to Bhutan, where Aris is doing academic research.

— April 12, 1973: Son Alexander born in London. Family soon moves to Nepal for a year for Aris’ work.

— Sept. 24, 1977: Second son Kim is born. The family keeps Oxford as a base but relocates regularly for work and academic research, spending time in Bhutan, Japan, India and back to England.


— April 1988: Suu Kyi returns home to attend to her ailing mother just as pro-democracy protests erupt against the military junta. Her mother dies later that year.

— September 1988: Suu Kyi helps found opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

— July 1989: Suu Kyi, an increasingly outspoken critic of the junta, is put under house arrest, which continues on-and-off for 15 of the next 22 years. The junta says she can leave the country anytime but she refuses, fearing she won’t be allowed to return, and chooses to live apart from her husband and sons. Aris is allowed to visit her five times, the last visit during Christmas 1995.

— October 1991: Suu Kyi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful struggle against the regime. Son Alexander, then 18, gives Oslo acceptance speech on her behalf.

— March 1999: Aris dies of cancer in England at age 53. The junta repeatedly denied him visas to see his wife during the three years leading up to his death.

—May 30, 2003: Suu Kyi’s motorcade comes under attack by pro-government thugs in northern Myanmar, killing a number of her supporters and bringing to an end a brief calming in tensions between her party and the junta. Suu Kyi spends four months in Yangon’s Insein Prison before being returned to house arrest.

— Nov. 7, 2010: Myanmar’s first elections in 20 years. Pro-junta party wins landslide victory in polls critics say were rigged and rampant with fraud.

— Nov. 13, 2010: The last of various periods in Suu Kyi’s detention expires, and she is freed.

— Nov. 23, 2010: Suu Kyi is reunited with son Kim Aris, now 33, for first time in 10 years. He was repeatedly denied visas since his last visit in December 2000.

— April 1, 2012: Suu Kyi wins seat in Parliament, marking her first elected office after two decades as a symbolic opposition leader.

— May 29-June 3, 2012. Suu Kyi makes her first trip abroad since she returned to Myanmar from London in April 1988 to nurse her dying mother. She visits neighboring Thailand, Myanmar’s second largest trade partner after China.

— June 13-29, 2012: Suu Kyi takes first trip to Europe in 24 years, with stops in Switzerland, Norway,Ireland, England and France.

— Sept. 17, 2012: Suu Kyi begins landmark visit to the U.S., taking in Washington D.C., and Fort Wayne, Ind., where thousands of Burmese refugees have settled since the ’88 uprising.


By The Associated Press | Associated Press

Myanmar president shakes up reformist government.


Myanmar’s president reshuffled his cabinet on Monday, his officeannounced, in a long-awaited move seen as promoting reform-minded allies and sidelining a prominent hardliner.

Former general Thein Sein awarded four of his key ministers the joint role of minister of the president’s office in what his aides said was a bid to speed up the reform process.

They include Railway Minister Aung Min, who has played a leading role in ceasefire talks with ethnic rebels, as well as Finance Minister Hla Tun and Industry Minister Soe Thein, key figures in economic reforms.

“They will work for the president. So the president will only need to make final decisions and he will have more time to work on the important matters,” said a senior government official who did not want to be named, adding that their replacements would be announced later.

Since taking office last year, Thein Sein has overseen a number of dramatic changes such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.

But there have been signs of tensions between reform-minded members of the government and conservatives opposed to rapid political change.

The country’s hardline Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, who for years oversaw the regime’s often-fraught relations with the media, has been moved to the seemingly obscure role of minister of cooperatives.

He will head a little-known ministry whose goal, according to its website, is to “promote cooperative socio economic well being”.

Labour Minister Aung Kyi — the former junta’s official liaison to Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest — will replace him.

The move came a week after Myanmar said it had abolished pre-publication press censorship that was a hallmark of life under the generals who ran the country for almost half a century until last year.

It also follows the appointment earlier this month of the navy chief to replace a regime hardliner as one of the country’s vice presidents, in a move that was also seen as strengthening government reformers.

Admiral Nyan Tun, 58, who has a reputation as a political moderate, was selected by the military personnel who make up one quarter of the legislature and have the right to choose one of the two vice presidents.

His predecessor Tin Aung Myint Oo — a renowned hardliner with close links to ex-junta chief Than Shwe — resigned in July ostensibly due to ill health, fanning rumours of a power struggle between regime moderates and conservatives.

There had been speculation that Suu Kyi might be offered a cabinet post but she herself has played down such as possibility because by law she would have to give up her seat in parliament.



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