Burmese dissident is undeterred by long detention, her husband says

May 18, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The husband of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said yesterday that her spirit is "indomitable" in her third year under house arrest and that she is prepared to remain in detention until there is reform in her country.

Michael Aris, who left Myanmar on Saturday after his first reunion with his wife since a short visit in December 1989, said that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi had refused to discuss the military government's terms for her freedom.

"The offer was repeatedly made to release her if she went into exile," Mr. Aris, a British academic, said at a news conference in Bangkok.

"But she never even discussed the matter because she says it is not negotiable. Since the day she began her endeavors, she resolved to stay and see it all through, come what may."

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 46, the daughter of the soldier considered the father of modern Burma, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent campaign to restore democracy to her homeland, which is now called Myanmar.

Appearing weary after his two-week visit to Yangon, the Burmese capital, Mr. Aris gave the most detailed firsthand report on Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's condition since she was placed under house arrest in July 1989.

"In the nearly two and a half years since I last saw Suu, things have not been easy for her, but in the days that we spent together, she repeatedly pointed out to me that others have suffered much more than she has. So she does not want to complain," Mr. Aris said.

"Hers is an austere and disciplined life," he said.

Her days confined to her family's lakeside compound in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, are limited to reading, listening to a radio, sewing and prayer, he said.

"Apart from the young girl who is allowed to come in and look after her every day," Mr. Aris said, "the only person she sees is a single officer from military intelligence."

She has been forced to sell furniture because of a shortage of money, he said.

Even as she refuses to give in to the junta's terms for her freedom, Mr. Aris said, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi is "keeping an open mind" on the government's intentions in light of a recent campaign for liberalization.

The campaign has included the release of dozens of political prisoners, including many of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's secret supporters, and a decree allowing Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to receive visits from her husband and her two sons.

"She is not yet quite convinced that this is the beginning of genuine reform," said Mr. Aris, a visiting professor at Harvard University. "But she is prepared to give the authorities the benefit of the doubt."

"Suu's health seems to be good, although she is not particularly robust," Mr. Aris said. "More important are her spirits, which remain, as ever, indomitable.

"She is resolved to continue her endeavors to find a path toward peace and happiness in her country."

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