Aung San Suu Kyi: Rise and fall of Myanmar’s revolutionary hero turned ‘smug’ ruler

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Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Parliament buildings on the Stormont estate in Belfast - Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Myanmar pro-democracy chief Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Parliament buildings on the Stormont property in Belfast – Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

The virtues that after made Aung San Suu Kyi a saint of non-violent wrestle led to a dramatic fall from grace in energy – however she continues to be essentially the most potent risk to Myanmar’s would-be army dictators.

The daughter of General Aung San, a nationwide hero extensively credited with profitable Burmese independence from British rule, Ms Suu Kyi at all times projected a way of future – critics may name it entitlement – to guide her nation.

Following a army coup in Myanmar on Monday morning, nevertheless, the nation’s controversial figurehead was detained in an early morning raid – later urging her followers to take to the streets in protest.

Ms Suu Kyi was solely two years previous when her father was assassinated in 1947, and he or she was largely raised abroad by her diplomat mom.

After a privileged upbringing in India and the UK, Ms Suu Kyi studied politics, philosophy and economics on the University of Oxford earlier than settling down along with her husband, the historian Michael Aris, in Britain.

But when she returned to Burma to take care of her ailing mom in 1988, she quickly turned embroiled within the nation’s pro-democracy motion.

Ms Suu Kyi rapidly turned the chief of the motion without cost elections, and by 1989 she had turn into so common that the nation’s army authorities might now not tolerate her presence.

She was arrested, and spent 15 of the subsequent 21 years in detention with little to no contact with the skin world.

Her dedication to non-violence and refusal to bend within the face of intimidation earned her comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

In 1991, whereas nonetheless beneath home arrest, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses thousands at a rally in Rangoon, Myanmar, in 1991 - The Nation/AP
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses thousands at a rally in Rangoon, Myanmar, in 1991 – The Nation/AP

But her steely commitment to the political struggle came at great personal cost.

As a prisoner at her home in Yangon, Ms Suu Kyi was separated from Michael and their sons, Alexander and Kim, for years at a time.

When Michael was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the military government refused to grant him a visa to say goodbye to his wife in person – apparently hoping she would opt to leave the country instead.

Michael died in 1999 in Oxford, having seen his wife only five times since her original arrest.

In 2010, she was finally released and allowed to resume her political career in a political thaw that was heralded as a new dawn for democracy after 50 years of nearly unbroken military rule.

In 2015, Ms Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in the country’s first free elections for a quarter of a century.

But the transition to democracy involved messy compromises that have marred her reputation.

The new constitution – carefully drafted by the military authorities to allow them to preserve as much of their power as possible – barred her from becoming president on the technicality that she had foreign-born children.

Instead, she became “state counsellor,” or de-facto national leader.

And critics pointed out that many abuses, including arrests of people criticising the government and intimidation of journalists, continued under Ms Suu Kyi’s rule.

Protesters hold up images of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest outside its embassy in Bangkok, Thailand - Lauren DeCicca/Getty
Protesters hold up images of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest outside its embassy in Bangkok, Thailand – Lauren DeCicca/Getty

Her international reputation took an irreparable blow in 2017, when Myanmar’s military launched a bloody campaign of genocide against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority who live in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to neighbouring Bangladesh with detailed accounts of organised massacres and rape coordinated by local government officials, Ms Suu Kyi refused to speak out.

Her government even defended the massacres as legitimate “counter terrorism”.

It was a popular stance with the public in Myanmar, and apologists argued that she had little choice: if she denounced the Army publicly, she would run the risk of another coup, and the complete collapse of Myanmar’s democratic experiment.

But others found it unforgivable.

“Those making excuses support her and want to defend her, but it is not rational,” mentioned Kyaw Win, govt director of the UK-based Burma Human Rights Network.

“She stood up towards the army, and that’s what we anticipated her to do – to face up with the identical energy for an important precept: towards genocide.

“She had a principle moral duty to protect human life. Instead, she lost her reputation across the world.”

The stubbornness that had sustained her through her hard years of house arrest now looked more like arrogance and entitlement.

Her commitment to democracy and human rights was revealed to be caveated by a racist version of Burmese nationalism, deeply ingrained Islamophobia, and hard-nosed political calculation.

But Ms Suu Kyi remains widely popular inside Burma. She is greeted by well-wishers whenever she travels, and has been pro-active in speaking to the public as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Burma watchers were surprised when many voters from the country’s minority voters backed the NDL at November’s election, apparently still seeing it as a bulwark against a return to military rule.

“The arrogance, the entitlement that we see – people in Burma don’t see it that way. They see her as mother Suu. They see her as someone who is on their side and has their interests at heart,” mentioned Phil Robertson, a Burma skilled at Human Rights Watch.

That will make it tough for the generals to silence her – and tough for Western governments who care about democracy in Myanmar to repudiate her, no matter her flaws.

Originally revealed

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