The Lady and the Lectures

This year’s BBC Reith Lectures on the subject “Securing Freedom” feature the world’s most famous former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. Having clandestinely recorded the lecture’s at her lakeside home in Rangoon, the recordings were played back to a specially invited audience at the BBC World Service in London to enable audience participation and debate with the Lady via a phone link back into Burma. We were invited to attend both lectures and the first one has now been broadcast on the BBC World Service and you can listen to it via the link below:

Securing Freedom “Liberty” by Aung San Suu Kyi

Read the transcript here

In the opening section as Daw Suu starts talking about U Win Tin and Dr Daw May Win Myint and then go on to discuss Generation Wave, my mind immediately drifted back to them and other colleagues and close friends that I’ve come to know over the years inside the country. The second lecture and debate with The Lady took place last night and with an evening slot (after midnight in Burma) a bigger audience was able to enjoy the occasion. Both lectures were packed with an audience filled with leading human rights campaigners, NGO’s and academics as well as family members with whom we were attending. Questions often varied from the sublime to the ridiculous and at times left Sue Lawley tongue-tied, but the participation of the Lady was a joy to behold and even through an often fading phone line, it was as though she as there in the room with us. Perhaps most poignant moment in the evening was when Lord Steel reminded the world to the other side of the struggle for freedom and that of personal loss and questioning if sacrifice can be too high a price to pay in the end. Daw Suu talked boldly of the NLD’s continued growth and stature in the country in spite of everything the junta have thrown at them and perhaps it was this side to the discussions that were most telling. The youth have a role to play, one that is even more important than that of the international community. Did we learn anything new? Well if nothing else, then her spirit and that of her party is stronger than ever should anyone be left with any doubts.

The second lecture will be broadcast on Tuesday 5th July. In the meantime you can listen to Jacqueline San (campaigner at the Burma Campaign UK and also the other half of most of the work you see on this website) as she was interviewed on BBC World Service discussing the first Reith Lecture along with other dissidents from across the world:

Prisoner Number 95: Insein Prison 1990-1992

Daw Nita Yin Yin MayDaw Nita Yin Yin May became the 95th former political prisoner from Burma to be photographed. During the 1988 uprisings Daw Nita Yin Yin May worked as an information officer at the British Embassy in Rangoon where she was responsible for collecting information on Burmese political situations and reporting back to the British Embassy. Continually being harassed and often arrested by the military regime, in November 1990 she was arrested for a final time when General Khin Nyunt gave a letter to the NLD outlining prohibitions against them – Daw Nita was accused of leaking the details of that letter and was immediately sentenced to 3 years imprisonment charged with “committing acts of high treason”.

After only a few days in Insein prison, Daw Nita realised she was pregnant and in June 1991 she went through the most harrowing experience of child-birth imagineable whilst being detained as political prisoner. She was then faced with the heartbreaking decision of leaving her son with her family on the outside whilst she served the remaining 9 months of her sentence before being released in 1992.

She fled Burma in the mid 1990s to Bangkok, Australia and finally to the UK and in 1997 her courage and suffering were honoured when she was awarded an OBE. She now lives here in London working as a highly esteemed and hugely respected senior producer at the Burmese section of the BBC World Service.

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PRESS: RFA, VOA and BBC airing skyful of interviews

“RFA, VOA and BBC airing skyful of lies”. That’s the usual propaganda broadcast daily on state controlled media both on MRTV and in the New Light of Myanmar. However, they might like to change it now to a “skyful of interviews” as in the last 48 hours I have done telephone interviews with all three. What can now be deemed an award winning project has now gained the attention of exiled media across the world. First up was an interview on VOA with Zaw Win Hlaing in Washington DC. Accompanying this interview they also spoke with former political prisoner, artist and also my good friend Htein Lin who’s portrait was included as part of the winning submission. Next up was another interview with Washington with RFA followed finally by a more local call with the BBC. It’s incredible to achieve such attention in the exiled media and the best news is that all of the interviews will be broadcast not just around the world, but also back into Burma. The exposure for the project is immense and it brings the issue of political prisoners back into the forefront of people’s minds (not like it ever goes away). Time will tell if I’m able to get a visa again…