Born to the revolutionary Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi has single-handedly changed the course of history in Myanmar. Following intermittent house arrest for over 20 years, she became leader of the very country that incarcerated her, bringing democracy to Myanmar and receiving the highest international accolade, the Nobel Peace prize, in the process. Yet in just a few years her star has waned, Myanmar has burned and Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted at allegedly genocidal levels. How has she managed so much, only to fall so far? The story of Aung San Suu Kyi carries omens for the world.
Aung San Suu Kyi was born in a small village outside the capital Rangoon (now Yangon) in 1945, at a time when Myanmar was under British rule, known as British Burma. Her father, Aung San, was the legendary freedom fighter and revolutionary nationalist. Aung San created and led the Burmese army, using it to help overthrow Japanese rule during the Second World War. Shortly before Burmese independence, to which he was accredited, he was assassinated in 1947. After studying extensively in the UK, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Myanmar in 1988, kickstarting a political showdown with the military government.
The Path to Power
Returning to Myanmar, she threw herself into mass democracy protests, before founding the National League for Democracy. House arrest by the military junta soon followed, under which she remained intermittently for over 20 years. During this time she tirelessly worked toward bringing democracy to Myanmar. After receiving countless awards, including the Nobel Peace prize, she was finally released in 2010. Whilst the 2010 elections were widely critiqued as rigged by the junta, her party still ran in subsequent by-elections, sweeping the board before winning a landslide victory in 2015 elections. Now de-facto leader, she had achieved the seemingly unachievable - democracy.
Lauded around the world, adored by millions of her compatriots, Aung San Suu Kyi had achieved legendary international status. Yet she presided over a deeply divided country, the tensions of which were about to erupt. In 2017, the army initiated a widespread crackdown under the pretence of security concerns in the Rakhine state. Spurred on by the army, local Buddhists began ethnic cleansing at genocidal levels against the Rohingya Muslims. Thousands of villages were pillaged and torched, up to 24,000 Muslims murdered in the process and 700,000 civilians fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh in the ensuing refugee crisis.
Why would Aung San Suu Kyi defend the very military that incarcerated her? The answer is depressingly simple - pure political gain. The Buddhist majority in the country despises the Rohingya, and whilst she may personally abhor violence, her public stance has made her more popular than ever before in Myanmar. She realises that international condemnation is an easy price to pay for continued leadership of a country that still adores her. Her tale is a depressing one of personal gain over basic decency and of political hypocrisy over humane values. Whatever she may have done for Myanmar, she is no hero, and her actions have shown her to be a true monster of global politics.
Image - Flickr (UN Geneva)