Aung San Suu Kyi?

Aung San Suu Kyi

A Kachin holds an Aung San Suu Kyi poster at a demonstration in Tokyo

Many of you are wondering…” What about Aung San Suu Kyi?”  “Isn’t she the answer to all of Burma’s problems?”

Short answer – Most Kachin see Aung San Suu Kyi as a good potential ally in their struggle for peace and freedom, but not as the leader of their struggle.

Longer answer below…

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Noble Peace Prize laureate whose party, the National League for Democracy, won 60% of the votes in the 1990 elections.  After the election, Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest instead of leading the government.   Her commitment and suffering for democracy in Burma are truly inspiring.

She is often referred to by the media as THE opposition leader in Burma, in stories that make it seem like if her party was in control of the government, all of Burma’s problems would quickly fade away. This is closer to a Hollywood heroine story than a political reality.

Recently she has been more vocal about the ethnic issues that are perhaps the fundamental issue at the root of most of Burma’s problems.  Burma is one of the most diverse counties on the planet in terms of both ethnic diversity and geography.  Any attempts to rule the country without internal autonomy for the states of the union, as promised in the Panglong Agreement, are bound to fail in the short or long run.

If Aung San Suu Kyi can truly bring about a lasting peace to the Union it will be by virtue of her ability to convince her fellow NLD party members and fellow Burmese citizens that the ethnic groups need the strong state’s rights promised to them by her late father, Gen, Aung San.  This is no easy task as the desire to control the whole union from a centralized place of power runs much deeper than just the current tendencies of the military backed regime.

The world’s media and citizens need to realize that any reporting or ideas for a solution that does not include the ethnic issue as a core component is out of tune with the real situation in Burma.

So while it is very important for the world’s media and governments to give Aung San Suu Kyi attention and support, it is equally important that they try to understand and tell the stories of the 40% of the population that are not Burmese Buddhists.