Britain’s former prime minister Gordon Brown has been denied for the second time a visa to travel to Burma, where he says he had hoped to meet “the greatest fighter for democracy of our generation, Aung San Suu Kyi”.
Brown, who left office in May 2010 following a three-year term, has long supported the opposition icon and made a previous, but similarly unsuccessful, attempt to visit her.
Writing in The Independent yesterday to mark the 100th International Women’s Day, Brown said that while he had spoken to Suu Kyi over the phone, “her release from house arrest in November last year has not allowed her to meet visitors from abroad”.
While no official restrictions accompanied her freedom, measures such as blocking foreign dignitaries from entering the country are seen as an attempt to isolate the 65-year-old, who despite her banishment from the political arena continues to provide the greatest threat to the junta’s grip on power.
Suu Kyi featured prominently in a range of international tributes published yesterday to mark International Women’s Day, likely irking the ruling generals’ who have consistently tried to discredit her.
“The woman her people call Daw Suu has endured attempted assassinations, lengthy incarcerations and enforced separation from the husband she loved,” wrote Brown. “Hers is a courage born of the deepest of convictions – that people can endure almost anything when their cause is just.”
Days before leaving office last year, Brown wrote a letter to Suu Kyi in which he said “I will do everything I can to support you. You are, for me, what courage is and I will fight for you to be free and your people [to be] free”.
Several months after Brown quit, his successor, David Cameron, pledged to do more than the previous Labour government to help Burma’s beleaguered opposition, and sent a message to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in which he said Britain would “take the lead in pushing for strong and effective international action on Burma”.
The British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) said last week that it would double aid to Burma, elevating it to the position of the world’s top international donor to the Southeast Asian pariah.