Whether it was the French Revolution or the struggle for Indian independence closer home, the fight against tyranny has never been easy. The ugly side of power and the blood and gore that suppression brings can never be wiped off from people’s minds, not when history is marred with so many bloodstained revolutions. The power-play continues even today, with authorities and governments setting down rigid frameworks for the common man to function in. Riots and rebellion are a natural consequence. But does this mean that the subjects of this authority can be relegated to being powerless and inconspicuous? Apparently not. And a woman named Aung San Suu Kyi is enough to tell us that.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 69, is now known today to the world as the face of the Burmese party National League for Democracy and a symbol of peaceful resistance against dictatorship. A memorable quote by chairman of the committee that awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 describes her as “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”. Having been placed under house arrest and solitary confinement countless times throughout her political timeline, she didn’t even travel to UK to meet her cancer-inflicted husband in 1999 (who died soon after ) because she didn’t trust the Myanmar authorities to let her back into the country. She carved herself into a true figure of sacrifice and resilience by literally having to give up her family in the UK in her fight for democracy in Myanmar (she met her son Kim Arish after almost a decade when she was released from her last period of house arrest in November 2010).
Her struggle, of course, was welcomed by all and sundry, yet the post-military-coup Myanmar of 1988 wasn’t too willing to accept her democratic stance. The pseudo-democratic elections held by the military government in May 1990 was conveniently won by Suu Kyi’s NLD, despite the fact that she herself was under house arrest at the time. Yet, not surprisingly, the victory was overlooked and the new military junta decided to stay in control. There was tremendous outpour of support for her yet again, this time in the by-elections of April 2012, where she and NLD won an impressive 43 out of 45 seats contested. She now stands proudly as the leader of the Opposition and continues to endeavour relentlessly for political reforms in her country.
In an emphatic statement to BBC in November 2014, Suu Kyi had expressed dissatisfaction about the “slow pace of reforms in Myanmar”. Yet, she’ll always stand as a pillar of defiance in the face of oppression because what she did bring to her country was nothing short of legendary. Her fight is not only against the vices of power, but also against the advocated helplessness and passive acceptance of the masses. To sum it up in her own epiphanic words, “Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”