Sunday, January 16

Aung San Suu Kyi or the tumultuous destiny of Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi, sentenced Monday to four more years of detention, embodies the tumultuous fate of Burma: icon of democracy, then outcast internationally with the drama of the Rohingyas, she has once again become a powerless prey in the clutches of the generals .

Overthrown by the army in February 2021 and already sentenced to prison in December, the 76-year-old former leader risks decades of detention at the end of her trial.

She spent nearly 15 years under house arrest under previous military dictatorships. Confined to her house by a lake in Yangon, she then addressed hundreds of supporters gathered on the other side of the fence in her garden.

Today, his situation is radically different. Held in secret in the capital Naypyidaw, his contacts with the outside world are limited to brief meetings with his lawyers.

The junta, determined to shut her up definitively, charged her with a multitude of offenses (sedition, corruption, electoral fraud, etc.); many of his relatives were arrested, some sentenced to heavy sentences.

“I do not believe in hope, I only believe in work (…) Hope alone does not get us anywhere,” she told AFP in 2015.

A few months later, her party, the National League for Democracy (LND), won a historic ballot and Suu Kyi was propelled to the head of the executive.

A position that she should have kept after the triumph of the NLD in the legislative elections of 2020, if the generals had not decided otherwise.

– “My father’s daughter” –

Aung San Suu Kyi’s life has always rubbed shoulders with drama. In 1947, his father, hero of independence, was assassinated. She was only two years old and then lived for a long time in exile, in India then in Great Britain, the former colonial power.

There, she leads the life of a housewife, married to an Oxford scholar, Michael Aris, with whom she has two children.

In 1988, she returned to Burma to her mother’s bedside and surprised everyone by deciding to get involved in the destiny of her country, in the midst of a revolt against the military regime.

“I could not, as a daughter of my father, remain indifferent”, she launches during her first speech.

The 1988 repression killed some 3,000 people, but marked the birth of the icon for a whole people crushed by the dictatorship since 1962.

Authorized to form the NLD, she was quickly placed under house arrest and witnessed, locked up, her party’s victory in the 1990 elections, a result that the junta refused to recognize.

In 1991, Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize but could not go to Oslo. She will wait more than 20 years to pick him up.

A few years later, her husband, who remained in the United Kingdom, died of cancer without her being able to say goodbye to him.

After nearly 15 years of house arrest, she was released in 2010 and entered Parliament two years later in the wake of the junta’s self-dissolution. His party’s victory in 2015 gave him the keys to government.

– International break –

Quickly, the image of the icon cracks internationally.

Some reproach her for her autocratic conception of power, trapped by her “position as a quasi-princess adored in her country”, comments political scientist Nicholas Farrelly.

It is also forced to come to terms with the still powerful military. In 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the atrocities of the army and Buddhist militias, a tragedy which led to Burma being accused of “genocide” before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Suu Kyi does not condemn generals. Worse, she defends her country in person before the Court, denying “any genocidal intention”.

But the victory of his party in the legislative elections of 2020 worries the military. She is upset.

Locked in, silenced, “Mother Suu” has little influence in today’s Burma. Many young people have even renounced non-violence, one of its principles, and are leading guerrilla operations against the junta.

“Suu Kyi’s governance inevitably contains failures”, notes Sophie Boisseau du Rocher, of the French Institute of International Relations. “But it allowed a call for air which today gives the people the strength to resist.”

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