In a masterful display of pushing for democracy while holding out an olive branch to the military dictators, Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi's post-detention debut demonstrated the capability to compromise while retaining her basic values. It was probably necessary not only to guarantee her continued freedom but also to show she could lead a country if that ever became possible.
"The Lady," without a teleprompter, deftly answered questions ranging from her personal security to whether stiff sanctions against the Southeastern Asian country should continue or be reduced.
She even talked of meeting with her arch-enemy, Senior General Than Shwe. "I think we will have to sort out our differences across the table, talking to each other, agreeing to disagree, or finding out why we disagree and trying to remove the sources of our disagreement," she told the BBC in a telephone interview. "There are so many things that we have to talk about."
Whether such stiff sanctions should remain in effect against her country, which the military regime calls Myanmar, was one of the issues she said she would consider. It is pariah to a certain extent throughout most of the world, except China and North Korea.
As for her safety, she said that was in the hands of the military. Suu Kyi does plan to travel outside Rangoon and talk with people to see what they want from their country and from her. "I want to listen to what the people want. I want to listen to what the other countries want, what they think they can do for us, what we think then that that they could do for us, and to work out something that is acceptable to as many people as possible. I just think of myself as one of the workers for democracy. Well, better known perhaps, than the others here in Burma but one of those working for democracy."
A devout Buddhist, she took a page from Nelson Mandela, who avoided allowing bitterness caused by his imprisonment to interfere in ending white-minority rule in South Africa without major violence. But Mandela had the protection of the outgoing white government, which had protected him even while he was being held on Robben Island. Suu Kyi said the military had treated her much better than other political prisoners. The facts tell a different story: she was attacked by "thugs" at least three times when not being detained since her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990. The following year she won the Nobel Peace Prize but could not leave to accept the prize in Oslo.
She was frequently held in virtual isolation, effectively prevented from seeing her family including her dying husband. Thousands gathered outside the headquarters of her party Sunday where she held a news conference. Technically the party was disbanded after it refused to take part in recent elections that the outside world has largely deemed a sort of Potemin vote with no validity.
The reaction to her release shows the whole world is still watching. The regime is under great pressure to make sure nothing happens to her. Whether it can control all of its elements remains to be seen.
While Gandhi sat down and refused to move, and Mandela's African National Congress started a resistance campaign, Suu Kyi is pictured in a YouTube video walking through a phalanx of rifle-wielding solders.
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