from Asia Unbound

Suu Kyi as a Candidate

March 08, 2012

Supporters carry a bust of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrives in Mandalay March 3, 2012.
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In today’s New York Times, Thomas Fuller has an excellent piece exploring the challenges faced by Aung San Suu Kyi as she attempts to make the transformation from longtime (and jailed) icon to politician. Fuller mentions that, since she is now a working politician, Suu Kyi has to offer solutions to the country’s problems, rather than just leading the dissent --- and those problems are enormous. But he does not mention in detail the fact that, among some Burmese Democrats, there is concern that simply by working closely with the government, Suu Kyi is hurting her own image, since it still remains unclear where the reform path is headed.

Though she is revered by Burmese, and clearly still commands an enormous following, the compromises Suu Kyi has had to make, and her willingness to work with the government of President Thein Sein, has worried even some of her most ardent supporters. She may be genuinely impressed with Thein Sein’s reformist instincts, but as of now the president still may not have the backing of all the hard-liners in the military and in parliament; his position remains precarious. Talk that she will be given a cabinet position after the April by-elections has only added to these worries, as it could mean that Suu Kyi could be pushed into focusing on one or two discrete issues, sidelining her ability to rally the broader democracy movement, and to potentially launch criticism of the government if it backslides.