Welcome to yet another human that is both revered and distrusted by the international community. Today I am introducing you to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Her background is as follows:
- Suu Kyi was born in 1945
- Her father, Aung San, was assassinated when she was two years old
- She was educated in India and the UK
- After returning to Myanmar in 1988 she became increasingly politicised and began participating in the democratic uprising bubbling in the country
- Around 1990 she was detained from participating in elections and then held under house arrest until 1995 then again 2000 to 2002 (if you want to read about the history of Myanmar check out this source, it’s too much to get into here).
- In 1991 she won the Nobel Prize for Peace
- Since then Suu Kyi has been attacked, re-arrested, threatened and had those around her murdered
- At present she is state counselor of Myanmar and has been in this position whilst extremely controversial incidents of state- and civilian-led violence have lead to huge numbers of refugees fleeing Myanmar
So this brings us to today. Many awards she received in her formative years have been rescinded and there is a wavering confidence in her ability to achieve peace in Myanmar. I mean… it seems a big ask… to achieve peace for a country… doesn’t it? But I do get it. For so many years, she was seen as an icon for peace and hope and democracy and it appears that now she is in the position of power that would potentially allow her to make some of these changes, she has backed away from those ideals.
I’m not sure how I feel. She does appear to be making attempts to broker peace between the quasi-civilian military and the Rohingyan Muslim minority (source), but has been met with resistance. I don’t sit on either side of this fence simply because it would take a few more googles, possibly some form of academic paper if not a phd to get around it all, but I do wonder if we maybe set our expectations too high for her – was it ever realistic to think she could stop a systematic, slow genocide of a group of people just by being in the position of councilor?
I mean, when I read this quote in an article I nearly yelled with anger:
‘Nearly a century of British rule left the foundations for democracy but Myanmar “like many countries in Africa, wasn’t able to translate these into an enduring foundation for sustainable democratic governance.”‘
This, to me, seems to speak volumes about our criticism and where it is coming from. I feel quite certain that if we asked the population of Myanmar how British rule left them, they wouldn’t say ‘we feel like those colonial white men really set us up for success!!’… I mean we have seen in country after country the impact that colonial Britain had, destroying existing social and political dynamics, stressing the natural resources and methods of working the land, exterminating animals and wiping out minority groups (socially/culturally/at times physically) in favour of their own method of operation. To say that Suu Kyi has failed because she didn’t achieve democracy as modeled by the British just seems… jarring at best.
I speak a lot to my friends about how complicated it is to ‘help’ other countries, particularly those with a diverse, dynamic and unique cultural, political and social make up. Sometimes, the democratic method that we know is the not the correct one for that place, and the best way to achieve peace, end suffering and increase the overall health, wealth and well being of civilians of a particular country may be a combined method of democratic ideals with local execution of those ideals.
I might have lost you at this point, because at the end of the day what does this all matter if people are still be slaughtered? Isn’t it more important to stop that??
The killings must be stopped. That is non-negotiable. The biggest win that could be had right now would be to get the rifles put down. I don’t have the answer as to how that happens because hell, if someone like me did then it would have been done by now.
What I’m saying, however, is that a lot of the backlash that people have against figureheads, against democratic ideals, all of this stuff that makes people viciously angry and lash out, is a fundamental feeling that if they allow Suu Kyi to come in and impose her values/systems/methods of social practice onto them, they will be no better off than under the former regimes. If you are oppressed time and again by your government, why would you be trusting of an emerging one?
Ah guys, I don’t know with this one… I feel like Suu Kyi is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and whilst she is ABSOLUTELY responsible for the decisions she is making in her position of power, I am unsure as to whether she should be vilified because she is not making the hoped or success that we expected of her. Thoughts? Feelings? I would love to hear them!
Thank you to the following sites: