Burma opposition leader and now a member of that nation's fledgling
parliament, Aung San SuuKyi, accepts the Congressional Gold Medal,
one of America's highest civilian awards, at the Capitol Rotunda, Sept.
19. A heroine by any definition, is criticism also due 'The Lady'?
Aung San SuuKyi: 'The Lady is No Saint' (Financial Times Deutschland,
is received as a heroine of superhuman stature on a par with Nelson Mandela or
Mahatma Gandhi. Although she has expressed strong objections, the world treats
her like a saint. ... And even if it almost sounds like blasphemy: this she is
not. The reverence that SuuKyi
is regarded with obscures her weaknesses. It hampers the analysis of her
political mistakes and shortcomings."
We need not wait for the pictures of this trip to visualize
them: Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama listening reverently. An emotional
first lady Michelle. The representatives bursting into applause as the speaker
presents the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award of the U.S. Congress. At
the center of it all stands a woman whose 67 years have done nothing to diminish
her charm and beauty, with flowers in her hair and a quick-witted humor formed
by her university years at Oxford: Burmese Nobel Peace laureate Aung San SuuKyi
is traveling across America on a kind of victory tour.
"Mother Suu," as the
people of her homeland affectionately call her, endured a long period of
suffering. She stubbornly defied the generals who subjugated Myanmar for five
decades. For fifteen years, SuuKyi
waited under house arrest. Even when her beloved husband was dying of cancer in
Britain, she didn't leave Myanmar to be at his side - so great was her fear
that the military would deny her reentry, separating her from her people.
In Spring 2011, the military government gave way to an
outwardly civilian one that began opening up the country. Since then,
"The Lady" is reaping the reward for her suffering. The people of
Myanmar show her their gratitude with a tempestuous love for someone who was
their light during years of darkness. Abroad she is received as a heroine of
superhuman stature on a par with Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. Although she
has expressed strong objections, the world treats her like a saint.
Although it sounds almost like blasphemy: this she is not. The
reverence that SuuKyi is
regarded with obscures her weaknesses. It hampers the analysis of her political
mistakes and shortcomings, and it makes it almost impossible to admit that even
The Lady can - and should - be subjected to criticism. To start with, she is
stubborn, and others would say that she holds a grudge. "She begrudges the
government anything," says a diplomat stationed in Rangoon. That may be
understandable since the cabinet remains full of ex-military personnel. But an
unsuccessful government is hardly in the interest of the country. For instance,
SuuKyi long resisted the
suspension of Western sanctions, although they cause suffering among the people.
This was her trump card against the generals.
That particular attitude has now changed. But it doesn't
follow that SuuKyi now has
a plan for economic recovery. "She has no conception of modern
economics," says someone who has met her several times. The Lady has
"romantic notions about social issues" and about how to differentiate between
"good" and "bad" investments. A Myanmar businessman, who is
well-connected to both SuuKyi's
National League for Democracy (NLD) and the military, confirms, "In the NLD,
there are no capable economic advisers, no economists."
That may also
be due to the fact that the NLD holds the status of sole
ruler. No political ideas are able to progress against its will, and SuuKyi's backing is the deciding
factor in the political careers of her supporters. According to one Burmese
journalist, she has resisted the efforts of senior NLD
veteran Win Tin to transfer greater responsibility to younger, talented party
members. "She's not a good listener," says a businessman.
other side, she also occasional allows herself the unnecessary affront. In the special
election in April, the NLD secured 43 of 45 seats in
parliament, one of which was for SuuKyi. However, she didn't show up for the opening of parliament.
Even in the days following the opening, she was absent. This attracted some negative
attention: "Most of members of parliament have the feeling that she
doesn't respect the body," said an elected representative from the
military-connected Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP].
in Myanmar provided the following anecdote: After the special election, a
general came to her and said: You've won. You will win the next election in
2015 as well. What's in it for us? SuuKyi allegedly gave him the cold shoulder and said, "We'll
be a democratic country." It's true that her unwillingness to make deals
is founded in principle, but it is not politically astute. A military that is
not only fearful of losing its privileges but also fears legal prosecution,
will hardly be disposed to allow this democratic election to take place.
there is her silence in the face of the crimes that militia and murderous gangs
have committed since June in the state of Rakhaing,
in the western part of Myanmar, against the Muslim minority Rohingya people. It is
not in dispute that Buddhists were also killed during unrest in the region. Reports
by human rights organizations leave no doubt that it was primarily Rohingyas who were lynched, had their homes burned, and
were driven away by the tens of thousands of people. Buddhist monks have
forbidden their coreligionists from cultivating friendships among the Rohingyas. The government considers them a stateless
people. A single sentence of solidarity from Aung San
SuuKyi may have alleviated
the plight of these outcasts. She has said nothing about it.