FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Aung San Suu Kyi, the face of the movement towards democracy in Myanmar, formerly Burma, has some in the Burmese community speechless about what her visit to Fort Wayne means to them.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent push toward democracy in then Burma, is a beloved figure in the Burmese community. Often compared to Nelson Mandela, Suu Kyi was a political prisoner for more than 20 years in her own country because of her political beliefs.
Like Suu Kyi, Myo Myint, who was recently the subject of an HBO documentary “Burma Soldier” and is a Fort Wayne resident, spent 15 years in a prison in then Burma. In fact, the two met in 1989 through their efforts to strengthen the voice of democracy for their compatriots. They were thrown in prison fewer than two weeks apart.
Myint says he cannot properly qualify what it means to have Suu Kyi visiting the Summit City.
"I cannot say to you—I cannot find the proper and decent word to mention how I much happy to meet her."
Myint says he is just one of the thousands of Burmese refugees in Fort Wayne who looks to Suu Kyi as an unshakable symbol of freedom and democracy. He says it is important that the rest of the Northeast Indiana community and the rest of the country understand her significance.
"She is just [the] one and only pro-Democracy leader to change our country, to change the futures of Burma and to change the fate of the people of Burma."
James Lutz, Ph.D., chair of the political science department at IPFW, agrees with the comparisons of Suu Kyi to Mandela.
“Like Mandela, she remained as a symbol and as somebody who was willing to negotiate with the government to open up a process of democratization rather than all or nothing now. I think that comparison to Mandela works as well,” he says.
Lutz also says her visit can be viewed with the same reverence by the non-Burmese community because American citizens and others will have the opportunity to celebrate a push for democracy abroad.
"The more American citizens who show up, who have no connection to Myanmar, the more it is a demonstration of the support of the population of the United States for extending democracy in parts of the world where it's been sorely lacking."
Myint says he and his fellow countrymen want to hear from Suu Kyi that she is making strides towards establishing a legitimate democracy and one that they can return to in the future.
"We Burmese people are hoping to hear from her some words: one day in which we, we can go back to our country with social and political dignity."
Suu Kyi will speak for free at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Tuesday, September 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
She is also expected to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during her trip in the United States.
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