The Aung Sang Suu Kyi facing a coup today is not the Nobel prize winning peace icon she once was

The Aung Sang Suu Kyi facing a coup today is not the Nobel prize winning peace icon she once was
Aaung Sang Suu KyiWikimedia Commons
  • Aung Sang Suu Kyi was burdened by her reputation as a democracy icon, that she once was.
  • Amnesty International stripped her of the peace prize saying that it was ‘profoundly dismayed’ as she refused to speak up for displaced Rohingya Muslims.
  • A military coup was staged today and the army declared a state of emergency in Burma.
  • Suu Kyi, she finds herself detained yet again and may go back where she was for most of her life.
In an interview a few years after Burma stepped out of a 40-year-old military rule, Aung Sang Suu Kyi declared that “she is no Margaret Thatcher nor is she Mother Teresa”. Clearly, she was burdened by the weight of expectations placed on her as the democracy icon, she proved herself not to be, later on.

The Aung Sang Suu Kyi facing a coup today is not the Nobel prize winning peace icon she once was
Presentation of the Sakharov Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi by Martin Schultz at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 22 October 2013Wikimedia Commons

While she was spending 15 of the 21 years in house arrest, the world had built an image of her - a mix of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi; and the Lady Diana-like good looks did not help either. There were stories flying around that she was so charming that the military government had to rotate the house guards most of whom would fall in love with her. Back then, who wasn’t?

Years after she came out of the arrest, and became the leader of a newly-free country, she was yet to open her door to new ideas and new people. That was expected since most of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party she founded, had almost disbanded by the time she was free. Even billionaires like George Soros who had generously donated towards her cause, found it hard to get a meeting with her. She was just as closed as she was, under arrest.
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The Aung Sang Suu Kyi facing a coup today is not the Nobel prize winning peace icon she once was
Aung San Suu Kyi gives speech to supporters at Hlaing Thar Yar Township in Yangon, Myanmar on 17 November 2011Wikimedia commons

Nothing changed under Suu Kyi regime
The government became heavily ‘personality driven’, Mark Farmaner, head of Burma Campaign UK told The Guardian. No decisions were made, no policies were made and the country remained just as it always was - with a different government.

Administration issues aside, Suu Kyi angered many people as she did not take basic decisions like releasing other political prisoners such as herself. The 73 year old has also named no potential successors.

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She is known to micro-manage every decision and insisted on keeping a number of portfolios with herself including education and the prime minister’s office. It did not help that the military itself had parliamentary representation and controlled home affairs and defence and hence the police. In spite of these, Suu Kyi did not do what was expected - to speak against the violence on Rohingya Muslims.

In a rumoured ethnic cleansing led by the still powerful military, as many as 700,000 Muslims along the Bangladesh border, were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in camps. Even if she did not have the power to stop it, she was at least expected to criticize the actions. But she did not.

The Aung Sang Suu Kyi facing a coup today is not the Nobel prize winning peace icon she once was
Aung San Suu Kyi at the World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on 6 June 2013Wikemedia Commons

The Marie Antoinette moment
The Nobel-prize winner had once loftily proclaimed Burma as a country of many ethnicities and aims to create a world free of ‘homeless and hopeless’. In a stark contrast, it looked like she condoned the violence, by dodging journalists, missing international meetings with simmering leaders who wanted to question her. When she was forced to respond, she downplayed the atrocities.
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That was not all. She also had her Marie Antoinette moment as she described the generals who were accused of violence, as “sweet”. It came as no surprise that Amnesty International stripped her of the peace prize saying that it was ‘profoundly dismayed’. The Nobel peace prize will remain with her mostly because it cannot be taken back. “The winners are expected to protect their reputations,” the authorities said.

Clearly, Suu Kyi hasn’t fought for her reputation along with her people, who had hoped for better days. Now, there is another military coup in Burma, with the army spokesperson proclaiming possible election fraud and declaring a state of emergency for one year. The phone lines are stuck, internet is down and the state television went off air closing off the country to the world yet again.

A military coup can only worsen the democratic values of a nation which was already ranked at a dismal 122 out of 167 by an intelligence unit of Economist and defined as a ‘hybrid’ regime due the power military wields. As for Suu Kyi, she finds herself detained yet again and may go back where she was for most of her life. This time, however, the world might not protest as vehemently as it once did, after she refused to speak up for others.
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