This letter on my desk sits shining with the embossed gold lettering and logo of the State Counsellor of Myanmar. Complete in gold embossed folder and envelope. Delivered with great intent by an earnest young embassy official in late January 2021.
Our latest fan mail but no ordinary fan mail… it is from a head of state. A woman so cherished by her countrymen and once by the world, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a woman who stood up to the generals and endured years of solitude in house arrest. Winning two elections, now after the second victory, arrested. Where is Aung San Suu Kyi and how is she?
The signature on the page… did the world expect too much of her. She pursued the dream of democracy but equity for all Burma’s citizens seemed to be beyond her interest and reach.
Ironic how she as a Buddhist could not comprehend the urgency of compassion for all in a crowded world with shifts of people and movements.
The Rohingyas must be part of a people living along that southern coastline, moving, trading, being brought back and forth by the shifts of power and the powerful as they played their games for more power and prestige.
The envelope on the table, thanking me for books on her mentor, Dhammawati Guruma. How excited I would have been to have received the letter when I sent the books with a friend moving to Myanmar four years before. Instead, the little package sat forgotten on a shelf until my friend was packing to leave Myanmar. She was kind to take the time to send the books through her office connections to the head of state. A woman who had lived in Nepal and volunteered at the nunnery to teach the young women English.
How this woman soared into a global role, leaving her husband and two sons, leaving a life of comfort in British academia, to stay in Burma to fight for democracy… for elections. It is such a complicated country, Burma, with layers of ethnicity, discrimination, power, guilt, denial. She had one goal, to bring a voice to her supporters.
Buddhist in name and ‘religion’ but in spirit… we might wonder. Or are they like so many countries where a few wield power, keeping their heads down, watching the track in front of them, not looking at those to the side.
What is democracy if it is not for all? Can we criticise when blacks in the USA or indigenous people in Canada and Australia face discrimination, hardship, and often oppression. The persecution of the Rohingya was an overarching brutal reaction to slings and arrows from the insurgent group.
Wrote my friend: “Myanmar is a complex country with a painful history and not one person even Aung San Su Kyi could resolve the deep fractures of that society and decades of prejudice, we all misunderstood her and thought she could help end of the suffering of the Rohingyas .. still she has tried her way to make progress for her country , it’s just a more difficult journey and she is not as perfect as the West portrayed her .”
Derek Mitchell, former US Ambassador to Myanmar told the BBC: “The story of Aung San Suu Kyi is as much about us as it is about her. She may not have changed. She may have been consistent and we just didn’t know the full complexity of who she is. We have to be mindful that we shouldn’t endow people with some iconic image beyond which is human.”
Sending prayers for safety and well being of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all the people of Myanmar (Burma).