Celebrating a Burmese Hero

Burmese gathered in Queens to mark the centennial of Gen. Aung San. (Photos by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

A letter was read from the general’s daughter, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the leader of NLD (National League for Democracy) and a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Children sang in traditional attire.

Some 350 Burmese celebrated the centenary of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s father with homemade Burmese foods, traditional Burmese dances and music, and speeches at P.S. 12 in Queens on Feb. 7.

Gen. Aung San – whose actual birth date was Feb. 13 – is still respected today among Burmese people as the founder of the country. Assassinated by rivals in 1947, he had fought for his country’s independence from British rule, which was eventually accomplished in 1948 after his death. In Myanmar, there are many posters sold at shops placing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of NLD (National League for Democracy) and a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, side by side with her hero father.

The Burmese community organizers of the event received a letter from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burmese, which was read from the stage by Mya Mya Soe. In the letter, she reminded the audience of her father’s spirit, saying, “When we examine my father’s spirit and attitude, first, he was totally honest and straightforward and second, he unceasingly strived towards his goals. Third, he had excellent judgment and foresight about what was right and what was wrong and short-term versus long-term benefits of any action.” She concluded her letter by calling for her father’s spirit to be carried by the next generation: “At present, to establish the kind of country that my father had planned and dreamed of, it is vitally necessary that our citizens, especially the youth of our country, emulate the general’s spirit and follow his path.”

One audience member, who asked to remain anonymous, commented: “Our new generation has to know about Gen. Aung San who brought us the independent Burma and thank him.” She went on to say that there was no real democracy in the country at the moment due to insufficient reform. She thinks Burma’s political leaders and army should follow Gen. Aung San’s example. A Burmese man, who also did not wish his name mentioned, said that the people support democracy in the country, but it is difficult to realize because the political power is still in the hands of the old establishment backed by the military. He thinks that over 90 percent of Burmese immigrants in the New York area, estimated at 12,000, want democracy to be established under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Between donations and the sale of tickets, event organizers raised approximately $5,000, which will be donated to the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation (wife of Gen. Aung San), an organization founded by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

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