Is it time to end the unquestioned reverence for Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi? With Suu Kyi in the United States to accept the Congressional Gold Medal, Financial Times Deutschland columnist Georg Fahrion outlines why flaws in character and her status as a ‘saint’ may now be hampering democratic progress in her nation.
In Spring 2011, the Myanmar military government gave way to an outwardly civilian one that began opening up the country. Since then, “The Lady” is reaping the reward for her suffering. The people of Myanmar show her their gratitude with a tempestuous love for someone who was their light during years of darkness. Abroad she is received as a heroine of superhuman stature on a par with Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. Although she has expressed strong objections, the world treats her like a saint.
Although it sounds almost like blasphemy: this she is not. The reverence that Suu Kyi is regarded with obscures her weaknesses. It hampers the analysis of her political mistakes and shortcomings, and it makes it almost impossible to admit that even The Lady can – and should – be subjected to criticism. To start with, she is stubborn, and others would say that she holds a grudge. “She begrudges the government anything,” says a diplomat stationed in Rangoon. That may be understandable since the cabinet remains full of ex-military personnel. But an unsuccessful government is hardly in the interest of the country. For instance, Suu Kyi long resisted the suspension of Western sanctions, although they cause suffering among the people. This was her trump card against the generals.
That particular attitude has now changed. But it doesn’t follow that Suu Kyi now has a plan for economic recovery. “She has no conception of modern economics,” says someone who has met her several times. The Lady has “romantic notions about social issues” and about how to differentiate between “good” and “bad” investments. A Myanmar businessman, who is well-connected to both Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the military, confirms, “In the NLD, there are no capable economic advisers, no economists.”
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