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Staying alive

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Aung Sang Suu Kyi is finally free to leave her lakeside home, but how did she get what she needed to stay alive while under house arrest? 

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Staying alive

How did Aung San Suu Kyi get the essentials she needed to stay alive during her lengthy stint under house arrest?

U Ni has the answer.

Every morning for the last seven years, usually just after 8am, the barbed wire barricades on Aung San Suu Kyi’s street would open for this short, thin man to slip through. U Ni, 61, would carry a leather backpack and a multicoloured basket filled with the food that kept Mrs Suu Kyi and her two friends — who were also under house arrest — nourished.

He rarely saw her, however.

He would usually give the basket of food — which had to be approved by police — to one of her two colleagues. They would hand her a list of items Mrs Suu Kyi desired.

He wouldn’t say who paid for the food, but was happy to share his shopping list: Thursday’s basket was full of apples, sweet limes, grapes and asparagus. He had sent curry earlier in the week.

He also carried cooked food from his house on the other side of the lake, just five minutes away by taxi. His elder sister usually cooked the food, but sometimes he provided raw meat if Mrs Suu Kyi wanted to prepare her own meals.

‘‘She eats like other people,’’ U Ni said.

‘‘The only thing she doesn’t eat is the meat of four-legged animals.’’ She normally eats chicken, fish and seafood. ‘‘Ah Ma [elder sister in Burmese] loves seafood,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t feel anything special doing this,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel like doing things for a sister.’’

When asked why he took on this responsibility, U Ni said, ‘‘I am not a party member. Ah Ma and I are just from close families.’’

U Ni is the son of independence fighter Thakin Ohn Myint, who was a close friend of independence hero Gen Aung San, Mrs Suu Kyi’s father.

Adapted from a story by Nyein Nyein Naing in Sunday’s Bangkok Post.

essentials – basics; things that necessary  สิ่งจำเป็น
stint – a period of time spent doing something ช่วงเวลาที่ทำสิ่งใดสิ่งหนึ่ง
house arrest – legally forced to stay in your house as if it were a prison การกักกันผู้ต้องหาไว้ในที่อยู่ของเขา
barbed wire – thick wire with a lot of sharp points sticking out of it, used for making fences ลวดหนาม
barricade – a temporary structure that is built across a road to prevent people from getting through แผงหรือแนวรั้วกั้น
nourish – to give a person, animal, or plant the food and care that they need to live, grow, and be healthy บำรุงเลี้ยง
rarely – not happening often นานๆ ครั้ง, ไม่บ่อย
approve – to give official permission อนุมัต
colleague – someone who works in the same organisation or department as you do เพื่อนร่วมงาน
desired – wanted ที่ต้องการ
asparagus – a long thin green vegetable whose stems and tips (=pointed ends) are eaten  หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง
raw – not cooked or not thoroughly cooked ดิบ
responsibility – a duty ความรับผิดชอบ, ความรับผิดชอบ
party – an organized group of people who have similar ideas about the way in which a country should be governed, and who work together to try to persuade people to vote for them in elections พรรค การเมือง
independence – freedom from control by another country or organisation ความเป็นอิสระ

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