Aung San Suu Kyi, Symbolism of

Aung San Suu Kyi, Symbolism of
   Although an able and committed political leader in her own right, Aung San Suu Kyi has also become a symbol, embodying the traditions, aspirations, and assumptions of her Burmese and foreign supporters. In Burma, where political authority is traditionally defined in terms of charismatic and sometimes magical personal characteristics, politics after 1988 has often been described in terms of a battle of wills between Aung San Suu Kyi and the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)/State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) leadership. In such a scenario, political ideas and institutions often seem irrelevant. During her 1989-1995 term of house arrest, she was sometimes referred to as "the Goddess (Nat-Thami) of University Avenue," and supernatural signs occurring after the General Election of May 27, 1990, allegedly included the swelling of the lefthand side of the chests of Buddha images, indicated that a woman would become Burma's ruler (since the left-hand side of the body is traditionally the side of the mother). Above all, in a land where family relations are all-important, her tie to her father Aung San gave her unparalleled authority as an oppositionist. Thus, she was cast by some Burmese in the role of a minlaung, a pretender to the throne or monarch-to-be.
   In the West, both governments and individuals have lauded her as a living testament to the universal relevance of human rights and democracy, at a time when these values are being challenged by more particularistic "Asian values." Her emphasis on the spiritual aspects of democratization and her synthesis of democratic and Buddhist values have also given her a symbolic appeal overseas similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi during India's struggle for independence.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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