SYMBOL: Aung San Suu Kyi, though locked up, is still a danger to the government. By Michael Casey THE ASSOCIATED PRESS BANGKOK, Thailand – Locked inside her walled home and not seen in public for four years, democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi has been like a ghost to the people of Myanmar. But she can cause a sensation just peeking out from behind her iron gate. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityA blurry photograph of Suu Kyi behind stone-faced riot police during the recent protests against Myanmar’s military junta was splashed on front pages around the world and gave a surge of hope to countrymen demanding an end to 45 years of rule by generals. Hoping to deflect outrage over images of soldiers gunning down protesters, Myanmar’s hard-line leader announced Thursday he is willing to talk with detained democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi – but only if she stops calling for international sanctions. Senior Gen. Than Shwe also insists Suu Kyi give up urging her countrymen to confront the military regime, state television and radio said in reporting on the conditions set by the junta leader during a meeting this week with a special U.N. envoy. The surprise move is aimed at staving off the possibility of economic sanctions and keeping Myanmar’s bountiful natural resources on world markets, while also pleasing giant neighbor China, which worries the unrest could cause problems for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The state media announcement came a few hours before U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari briefed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on his four-day trip seeking to persuade Myanmar’s military leaders to end the crackdown on democracy activists. By praying with monks who marched despite the threat of bullets, by silently acknowledging demonstrators shouting her name, by blessing with her steely gaze the biggest anti-junta protests in two decades, Suu Kyi, the tiny woman nicknamed “the Lady” has become more of a democratic icon than ever. Suu Kyi has been compared to Nelson Mandela, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Supporters mark her birthday with candlelight vigils, U2 penned the song “Walk On” in her honor, and everyone from first lady Laura Bush to comedian Jim Carrey has championed her cause. “Aung San Suu Kyi is not only the inspiration for the Burmese to bear their ongoing suffering … She alone continues to command the moral and political legitimacy of the nation,” said Monique Skidmore, a Myanmar expert at Australian National University. Still, being under house arrest for almost 12 of the past 18 years has taken a toll. The long years of isolation, the lack of contact with family, friends and colleagues, the crushing of the latest protests clearly are weighing on her. In photos taken after her two meetings with U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari this week, the 62-year-old Suu Kyi appeared exhausted and discouraged, unable even to fake a smile for being allowed the rare privilege of talking to an outside guest. But even though she is locked away, the very mention of her name is said to throw the head of the junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, into fits of rage. “She is not just the opposition … She is a symbol,” said David Steinberg, a Myanmar expert at Georgetown University in Washington. “She is the biggest threat.” Hundreds of riot police are now stationed around the clock outside her sparsely furnished, lakeside home in Yangon. The road in front is closed to traffic. Two navy boats patrol the lake. Suu Kyi has no phone or Internet access. Despite the years of harsh treatment, Suu Kyi says she would be open to compromise with the generals and insists her quest is not about becoming the next leader of Myanmar. “I don’t want to see a new personality cult develop,” she has said. “I have a vision of a country where we can sort out our problems by talking with one another.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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