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Date : 21st March, 2015
Time : ?58’?
Total distance run to date : 530 km
Run map and details : Garmin data lost
I used to be a keen supporter of Amnesty International and, after some years as an active volunteer, I joined the UK Board as Treasurer. I discovered an organisation debating a number of issues. Should it remain focussed on civil and political rights or should its work also encompass social and economic rights? Should it stick rigidly to its ‘own country’ rule which – in the interests of neutrality and objectivity – stops members campaigning on matters relating to their own countries? Did being a human rights organisation imply a certain way of structuring and running the organisation and managing what Amnesty calls ‘industrial relations’ (i.e. relations between management and staff)?
Many people came from a campaigning background so the debates could be strenuous and long running. However, one point everyone could agree on was that Aung San Suu Kyi was a human rights heroine.
For those not familiar with her story, Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician and pro-democracy activist who has spent much of her life under house arrest in Yangon (Rangoon as was). She’s been one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners and has won the Nobel Peace Prize and a raft of other international accolades.
And here I was, one hot (40C at the start) Saturday afternoon running past Aung San Suu Kyi’s house – picture below – and along the shores of Inya Lake. The lake that, famously, the American John Yettaw swam across before breaking into Aung San Suu Kyi’s property.
The story is truly bizarre. Yettaw claimed he had been inspired by a divine vision to warn Aung San Suu Kyi of an impending assassination attempt. However, his trespass took place two weeks before her house arrest was due to end in May 2009 and was used as a pretext to place Aung San Suu Kyi on trial and extend her house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters – perhaps not surprisingly – suspected the whole incident was a ruse. (Yettaw received a 7 year sentence but was later released having served half his sentence.)
On the way back from the lake, I had my first vaguely serious fall on one of these runs. I was running along the ‘pavement’ by the side of the road – a pavement made up of concrete blocks lain sideways across a ditch. It all looked very stable but one of the blocks somehow split in half under my foot’s impact and fell into the ditch below. Luckily my forward momentum took me clear of the now gaping hole in the pavement – picture above – or I might have broken my leg. But I did end up with a number of cuts and bruises – and a ringing head. Equally luckily, one of the runners had the nous to immediately wash the cuts and impress upon me the need to be serious about the risk of infection.
At the end of the run, my running companions said – half-seriously and half-jokingly – that I shouldn’t go onto social media about the pavement and the fall as it could be seen as ‘negative posting’ by the authorities. In the UK I would have had a cast iron case for damages but in this case I decided that discretion might be the better part of valour.
I’m now back in the UK so I don’t need to be overly concerned about the Myanmar authorities. However, since this blog mentions Amnesty International, Aung San Suu Kyi and dangerous pavements, I’ve decided not to include the names or any pictures of my fellow runners. Thanks all for the run and the company!
A quick couple of postscripts. That evening I limped up the steps to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s a magnificent enormity of ornate and gold. See it if you can! And, finally, for anyone interested in the current state of human rights in Burma, please see Amnesty’s latest report.