Friday, July 2, 2010

Uppity Women #3

The Face of Courage

Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi
Freely Elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Burma
1990 Nobel Laureate

From her famous speech, Freedom from Fear:

"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."

Aung San Suu Kyi is extremely uppity. She has reason to be so.

Elected Prime Minister of Burma in 1990 (her party, the National League for Democracy won 59% of the vote and 394 of  of 492 seats in Parliament), Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time and has been pretty much since then. The election results, which seemed to really annoy the military junta leadership (Gen. Saw Maung) that had staged a coup d'état against the previous military junta leadership (Gen. Ne Win) which had staged a coup d'état against the democratic leadership that ran post-colonial Burma, were nullified.

As the focal point for peaceful and non-violent demonstrations that asked for change Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, much to the dismay of her captors. It has made her much harder to silence, torture or murder.

The daughter of Aung San, founder of modern Burma (who was assassinated after brokering Burmese independence from the UK in 1947, the same year that India and Pakistan won independence and partitioned) Aung San Suu Kyi is Oxford educated and has a PhD in Economics from the University of London. She worked at the United Nations for three years. After living abroad for more than twenty years, first with her mother, an official of the Burmese government, in Bhutan, then in the UK, Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother. She became a lightning rod for the pro-Democracy movement in August of 1988. She has not left the country since that time, since the military junta that stole the elections and the country that was Burma, have held her under house arrest for much of the past twenty years. They have denied her access to her sons, who live in the UK and are not permitted to visit her in Burma, and most tragically, they would not allow her husband to visit her, when he was dying of cancer in 1999 (In spite of pleas from the UN, the US, the Vatican and a number of human rights organizations). They had not seen one another since Christmas of 1995.

Aung San Suu Kyi has pretty much a standing offer from the military regime to leave Burma and the Burmese people and basically accept exile, since there is not a chance in the world that they would let her come back if she left to visit her sons or seek healthcare, since she has reportedly been seriously ill over the past few years. 

She has refused to leave the people, and the country, that elected her.

Suu Kyi has won a slew of awards for her work for peaceful change in addition to the 1990 Nobel. In 2006 New Statesman ranked her number one in a reader-voted list of "50 Heroes of Our Time", where she even outranked Nelson Mandela.

Bono of U2 wrote the song "Walk On" about her in 2000, a year after she lost the husband she had not seen prior to his death. It has become a rally cry to freedom after a more than twenty year fight for the Burmese people. 

Seeming to bow to international pressures, in 2009 the military junta that currently runs Burma agreed to allow for new elections in 2010.

While they may permit candidates from the National League for Democracy to run, they refuse to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to run for parliament again.

It doesn't take much to figure out why...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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