Lately, I've taken quite an interest in Aung San Suu Kyi. Many people may not even know who I'm talking about and that's okay. Up until several months ago, I didn't know who she was either. It all started when I audited an Asia comparative studies class at my most recent alma mater, American University. As I took this course and I became more and more familiar with many of the countries in Southeast Asia, I started paying more attention to this part of the world when it showed up in the news. This is when I was first introduced to Aung San Suu Kyi.
For those who are unfamiliar, Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar (or you may know it as Burma). The NLD is a political party that has been fighting for many years against military rule in Myanmar. Myanmar has (up until recently) been under military rule since it gained independence in 1948. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in the news a lot lately, because her party won the most recent presidential election, which is monumental. It would make sense that as leader of the party, Aung San Suu Kyi would become president, however she is barred from the presidency by the constitution. Her sons are British (as was her late husband) and according to the constitution that was written by the military regime, Suu Kyi cannot become president. Many believe that the constitution was written that way with Suu Kyi in mind.
So as I read more and more about Aung San Suu Kyi in the news, I found myself wanting to know even more. As many of you may have realized, I am a huge advocate for women's empowerment. Considering the fact that Asia is not necessarily a part of the world where you normally see female leaders, I began to wonder what led Suu Kyi to where she is now. I wanted to know what her story was. This led me back to American University, where I found myself in the library.
I started by taking out two books, Letters from Burma and The Burma Spring. Letters from Burma is a book that was written by Aung San Suu Kyi herself. She wrote one letter each week for a year from November 1995 to December 1996. This was a somewhat transitional time in Aung San Suu Kyi's movement. She had recently been released from house arrest, but that didn't mean that everything was all well and good. Suu Kyi wrote not just about politics and the dissonance that was occurring in her country at that time. She also wrote a great deal about Burmese culture and society. This book seemed very much like a blog before the time of blogging. Each letter was only a couple pages long and each one discussed a different topic. I really enjoyed the way Aung San Suu Kyi wrote this book. It was very matter of fact, but she does not come off as bitter or spiteful. She reminds me a lot of Nelson Mandela. She just wants the best for her country and its people.
The Burma Spring, written by a U.S. journalist, detailed not only Aung San Suu Kyi's life, but also the history of the democracy movement in Myanmar. Since taking out these initial two books, I've continued to read several other books about Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi. I still can't seem to get enough.
I mentioned this new interest to my best friend and he, although not nearly as familiar, knew a little bit about the democracy movement in Myanmar. That's when he told me that there was a movie that had come out a few years ago about Aung San Suu Kyi. I was amazed that I didn't know this, but he suggested that we watch the move together some time. It took us a couple months to find the time to watch The Lady, but eventually we sat down and watched it.
I thought this movie was an incredibly good recreation of Aung San Suu Kyi's story, but I also think I enjoyed it so much because I already knew the story. As I watched the movie with my best friend, he kept telling me how glad he was to be watching it with me because I was explaining more than the movie could. I wish Suu Kyi's story was easier to detail in a movie, but it is just too long and too complicated.
Aung San Suu Kyi is an amazing person and I continue to learn more and more every day.