Aung San Suu Kyi, kept incommunicado for a year, embodies the tumultuous destiny of Burma: icon of democracy, then pariah internationally with the drama of the Rohingyas, she has again become the victim of the generals.
Overthrown on February 1, 2021, sentenced to six years in prison, the 76-year-old ex-leader risks several decades of detention.
The Nobel laureate spent nearly 15 years under house arrest under previous military dictatorships.
Confined to her lakeside home in Yangon, she addressed hundreds of supporters gathered on the other side of her garden fence.
Today, his situation is radically different.
Under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, her contacts with the outside world are limited to her lawyers.
The junta, determined to silence her definitively, charged her with a multitude of offenses (violation of a law on state secrets, corruption, electoral fraud, etc.); many relatives were arrested, sometimes sentenced to heavy sentences.
“I don’t believe in hope, I only believe in hard work (…) Hope alone gets us nowhere,” she told AFP in 2015.
A few months later, her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a historic election, propelling her to the head of the executive.
A position that she should have kept after the triumph of the NLD in the 2020 legislative elections, if the generals had not decided otherwise.
– “Daughter of my father” –
His life has always bordered on drama. In 1947, his father, a hero of independence, was assassinated. She was only two years old and then lived in exile in India and Great Britain.
She leads the life of a housewife there, married to an Oxford academic, Michael Aris, with whom she has two children.
In 1988, back in Burma at her mother’s bedside, she surprised everyone by deciding to get involved in the destiny of her country, in the midst of a revolt against the military.
“I could not, as my father’s daughter, remain indifferent,” she says in a speech that has remained famous.
The repression left some 3,000 dead, but marked the birth of the icon for a whole people crushed by the dictatorship.
Authorized to form the NLD, she was placed under house arrest and witnessed, locked up, the victory of her party 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 come and get the reward.
A few years later, her husband, who remained in the United Kingdom, died of cancer without her being able to say goodbye to him.
She was finally released in 2010 and entered Parliament two years later following the self-dissolution of the junta. The victory of his party in 2015 gives him the keys to government.
– Breaking up internationally –
Quickly, the image of the icon breaks internationally.
Some criticize her autocratic conception of power, trapped by her “position of adulated quasi-princess in her country”, comments political scientist Nicholas Farrelly.
It is also forced to deal with the still powerful military.
In 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the abuses of the army and Buddhist militias, a tragedy that earned Burma to be accused of “genocide” before the International Court of Justice.
Suu Kyi does not condemn generals. Worse, she personally defends her country before the Court, denying “any genocidal intention”.
But his party’s new victory in the 2020 legislative elections worries the military. She is knocked down.
Locked up, reduced to silence, “Mother Suu” has little influence on Burma today.
“We are not fighting for her, but for the freedom of an entire people,” notes Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe, Minister for Women and Youth in the resistance government set up against the junta.
Many Burmese have also taken up arms against the army, renouncing non-violence, one of the key principles of the Nobel Prize.
“The governance of Suu Kyi necessarily contains failures”, notes Sophie Boisseau du Rocher of the French Institute of International Relations. “But it allowed a breath of fresh air which today gives the people the strength to resist”.