Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in Burma’s parliamentary elections yesterday was a long-awaited homecoming. Lest we forget, a most bitter outcome followed her first electoral victory, in Burma’s 1990 presidential election. As we celebrate the opening of democracy in Burma, it is worth seeing a timely new film, The Lady, will open in theaters around the country this month. The film will remind audiences here of the dramatic events in Burma a quarter century ago, when the world first heard Aung San Suu Kyi’s name.
I was glad to have the opportunity to attend a special preview event last week, hosted by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The film is faithful to history, and the real drama of these events needs no embellishment. Daughter of Burma’s preeminent freedom fighter, Aung San Suu Kyi was living a quiet life as a British housewife and mother when, despite all odds, Burma’s courageous students took to the streets in 1988 to demand an end to the brutal military dictatorship.
The film does excellent service to the deep questions of personal responsibility when unforeseen circumstances provide a single individual with a choice that can make a powerful difference in the lives of others, and possibly even change the course of history.
The world knows what Aung San Suu Kyi’s choice was at that time, and her Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other accolades are a collective, global recognition of the courage of that choice. Bur her struggle and the struggle of the Burmese people did not end yesterday.
We would do well to remember that despite the elections and what some are calling Burma’s first taste of democracy in decades, the generals are still in charge. Burma’s constitution gives significant power to the military, and the military remains unaccountable to civilian authority . Ethnic minorities in the eastern states have paid the highest price – decades of killing, displacement, forced labor and rape. Burma’s Constitution must be amended to remove the military from politics, or the elections will be of little genuine value.
We must continue to keep watch and push for these constitutional reforms. The Lady’s vision cannot rely on her efforts alone – we all are now called upon to make choices, too, in support of democracy and human rights in Burma.