Aung San Suu Kyi is the iconic leader of the democratic movement in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, founder of the Burmese Army and the man who negotiated Burmese independence from Britain. Now she is running for a seat in parliament. She has been a figurehead of the movement since 1990 when the National League for Democracy won the elections, which were ignored by the military dominated government. Soon after, she was put under house arrest, and for twenty years spoke out against the government from her home.
Throughout that time, Suu Kyi has made many difficult decisions, sacrificing her personal life for her political ideals. When her husband, Michael Aris, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1997, she was faced with an ultimatum. The Burmese government denied Aris an entry visa to see Suu Kyi, whom he had only seen a handful of times since her arrest. The alternative of leaving the country to see her husband had its own issues because she would have been able to leave Burma to be with her husband in his final days, but she would never have been allowed back into the country. Suu Kyi chose to stay in Burma. Without her leadership, the democratic movement in Burma would likely have stalled.
Now Burma seems to be a country on the cusp of democratic change. Since release from her house arrest in 2010, the Great Lady, as Suu Kyi has come to be called, is leading the National League for Democracy into parliament, ready to institute change for her country. Nevertheless, many now question what will happen once democracy takes root in Burma.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, there are very few specifics about Aung San Suu Kyi’s policy plans once her party is elected to office. Some question whether she will be able to utilize the momentum of the democratic movement to institute real change in the country. Rather than dallying support for specific policy changes, Suu Kyi has told voters that to affect change they should vote for her political party.
Perhaps this means that we are seeing the transition of an iconic leader into a politician. Can the leaders of socio-political change be involved in politics and maintain the integrity of their movement and ideals?
UPDATE: The National League for Democracy has declared victory in the elections in Myanmar this weekend.