Daw Suu Kyi and movement for democracy, freedom and human rights in Burma
Posted Jun 14, 2007

Daw Suu Kyi and movement for democracy, freedom and human rights in Burma

by Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Throughout history, we have seen the importance of personality in shaping the destiny of a nation. These personalities become larger than their lives. They gravitate people to overcome their local and ethnic/tribal/regional inertia towards a common cause. Rarely did a social and national movement succeed that did not have that iconic unifying figure. That unique role has been provided by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for Burma, a country of many races, ethnicities, and religions.

Analyzing from its problematic history, geography, social and economic factors, Burma is not an easy territory for anyone aspiring to become its national leader. Politically, it has more than its share of (almost never-ending) military dictatorships that pale the ugly records of other despots of our time by any indicator. The Junta has used most of the brutal and horrendous methods that were invented by beastly human perverts to prolong its bloody grip of power. The faces of the rulers have changed, but the institution that rules has not changed.

Long gone are the inalienable rights granted under the Charters of the UN Declaration of Human Rights! With Draconian measures implemented one after another inside Burma, the country has become the worst place on earth to live outside war-ravaged countries of Iraq and Afghanistan (and the Occupied Palestine). Taking blood-soaked pages from history, the usurpers have utilized the divide-and-rule policy to fragment the already-fragmented society of nations and ethnicities - rewarding one for its cooperation and punishing the other for its non-compliance – perceived or real. The temptation is often high to bemuse oneself as belonging to the majority - with very little to lose. After all, the ruling regime is drawn from the majority Burman race. With the loss of the oppressed minority there has to be some gain for the privileged majority! And some human vultures and hyenas from the national/religious majority have taken that cue to benefit from the suffering of people of the minority races, ethnicities and faiths. Similarly, some opportunists and bounty hunters have emerged from the communities that are minority in the national picture but majority in the regional area. They play the same tune as the SPDC plays—behaving like Quisling and Mir Jafar of olden times, and Chalaby of our time. Naturally, if you are part of an ethnic and religious minority like the Rohingya community of the Arakan state of Burma, you automatically settle for the worst kind of human rights abuses.

Given the reality of the troubling situation inside Burma, the role of true leadership become so crucial! Who can unite rival factions, tribes and nations, fractious communities and yet take them to a higher glory that is win-win for all? It is an almost-impossible task requiring vision and well chalked out plan, epitomizing sincerity of propose and action, which is motivating and fulfilling. Very few have succeeded in this epoch-making trial of genuine leadership.

Is Daw Suu Kyi that person for Burma? No one can deny the fact that she is best recognized - both inside and outside Burma - to provide that glue-some attraction. She has essentially become the face of Burma in its struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights. No one comes even remotely close to her in that role of leadership. She is uncontested. In Suu Kyi, the majority sees her as one of their own, who understands them and can talk face to face in the same language. They see her as the daughter of their venerated leader.

How about the minority? It is in Daw Suu Kyi that the minority communities like the Rohingya, Karen and Shan look for leadership, as do many other communities that form today’s Burma. They aspire for democracy, freedom and human rights - something that has been snatched away from them by the military regimes that have ruled Burma for most of its post-colonial period. She is their answer to decades of deprivation, dispossession and dehumanization. She is their hope for return from exile—from the bushes, jungles and refugee camps—to ancestral homes. It is around her that they dream of reconstructing torched homes and uniting with family members. She is their leader, comrade, and sister. She is also a fellow-traveler tasting pain and suffering in the long march to freedom, democracy and human rights. She is their last chance to redress their old grievances and elevate their status from statelessness to statehood, denial to acceptance, non-entity to entity, and become effective citizens in a federal system that respects and protects their unique place in history, culture and religion. There is none that they can look for providing that unifying leadership.

What undeniably is the strength of the movement for freedom, democracy and human rights, unfortunately, is also its greatest weakness. It is Daw Suu Kyi. This fact is known to the regime and all those who have studied history vis-à-vis the unique role of leadership. The Burmese democratic movement has no one to replace Daw Suu Kyi. There is no Boumedienne, no Mbeki, and no Nehru for Burma who can effectively lead the movement if Daw Suu Kyi is no more.

That is why many of the measures taken by the SPDC regime are nothing more than foot-dragging tactics to buy time, hoping that with the death of Daw Suu Kyi the dissident movement will cease to exist or lose its legitimacy as the unifying force. The measures that they tout are hypocritical and part of a long term strategy to solidify their grip over power. If they were sincere to make a positive change, knowing how well Daw Suu Kyi is respected by all dissidents, they would not have ignored or neglected her. They would have consulted her on the so-called roadmap for democracy in Myanmar.

The SPDC’s tactics to ignore Daw Suu Kyi on its proposed roadmap shows their naked hypocrisy or insincerity.  This so-called blue-print for democracy will not have any better luck than dozens of other efforts that were tried out before that did not have people’s support. The sooner the SPDC planners understand the importance of Daw Suu Kyi in restoration of democracy, human rights and freedom, the better. Without her consent, there is no buy-in from the various communities that make up today’s Burma, and not even from the majority Burman community. The greatest flaw with the SPDC leadership is in its miscalculation about the very state that they have ruled for years. They forget that Burma is an artificial state of diverse peoples that cannot be kept united by brute forces alone. It needs a unifying figure that fosters mutual trust and unity, and strengthens the whole. Nobel Peace prize winner Suu Kyi is that figure. With her, there is a united Burma. And without her, only disunity and break-up! In her, the regime has the last chance to unite various communities under one federal system.

Will this realization sink in with the SPDC regime? I doubt it.

When hypocrisy and brute force become the guiding principles, their practitioners try to hoodwink all hallucinating that everyone else is fooled and their means are justifiable. In these, they fool none but themselves and dig their own graves of ignominy!