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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi at mercy of military once again

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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi at mercy of military once again

After a lifetime fighting the Myanmar military, 76-year-old Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is once again at the mercy of generals, facing charges that could land her in jail for decades.

The former leader has been detained since a coup that overthrew her government in the early hours of February 1, ending a brief democratic interlude for the country.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the coup, with more than 1,200 people killed in a military crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group, and the economy in shambles.

Suu Kyi swept national elections last November and was preparing to begin another five-year term as the nation’s de facto leader.

But the coup ended her time at the helm and her arrest has left her on the fringes of Myanmar’s democracy movement, which has forged a more radical path without her.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of the hero of independence, General Aung San, spent nearly two decades enduring long periods of house arrest under the former military regime.

His legacy abroad has been deeply tarnished since a landslide election victory in 2015 that brought his National League for Democracy (NLD) to power.

There was worldwide revulsion for a military crackdown two years later that saw some 750,000 members of the stateless Rohingya minority flee burning villages to neighboring Bangladesh.

She remains immensely popular in Myanmar, but for many young protesters, the revolution must go beyond the democratic movement she led decades ago and permanently eradicate military dominance from the country’s politics and economy.

Some protesters have avoided non-violence, a fundamental principle of Suu Kyi, and hundreds of people are believed to have walked into jungle areas to receive combat training from veteran rebel groups.

“Suu Kyi just doesn’t have the influence that she once did,” said David Mathieson, an analyst who previously resided in the country.

Daughter of a hero
Suu Kyi was born on June 19, 1945, in Japanese-occupied Yangon during the final weeks of World War II.

His father, Aung San, fought for and against the British and Japanese colonizers as he fought to give his country the best chance of independence.

That goal was achieved in 1948, but Aung San was not present to see it: he and most of his cabinet had been assassinated only a few months earlier.

Suu Kyi spent most of her early years outside of Myanmar, first in India, where her mother was an ambassador, and then at Oxford University, where she met her British husband.

After General Ne Win seized all power in 1962, he imposed his brand of socialism on Myanmar, turning it from Asia’s rice bowl into one of the poorest and most isolated countries in the world.

Push into the spotlight
Suu Kyi’s rise to champion of democracy happened almost by accident when she returned home in 1988 to breastfeed her dying mother.

Soon after, at least 3,000 people were killed when the military crushed protests against their authoritarian rule.

The bloodshed was Suu Kyi’s catalyst.

A charismatic speaker, she found herself in a leadership role in the burgeoning democracy movement, delivering speeches to large crowds as she led the NLD to an electoral victory in 1990.

The generals were unwilling to give up power, ignoring the outcome and confining themselves to their home in Yangon, where they would live for 16 of the next 20 years.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in detention in 1991, for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.”

The junta offered to end his imprisonment at any time if he left the country for good, but Suu Kyi refused.

That decision meant not seeing her husband before his death from cancer in 1999, and missing her two children growing up.

The army finally granted him his freedom in 2010, just days after elections that his party boycotted but brought a nominally civilian government to power.

He swept in the following poll five years later, sparking jubilant celebrations by massive crowds across the country, and increased his party’s majority in 2020.

Hamstrings on power
Suu Kyi’s administration was plagued with problems and marked by an uneasy relationship with the military, which held a powerful and outsized political role.

But the government and the army appeared in unison after the 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya.

His office denied claims that fleeing refugees had suffered rape, extrajudicial executions and arson attacks on their homes by Myanmar troops.

Suu Kyi defended the army’s conduct and even traveled to The Hague to refute the genocide charges in the UN high court.

Months later, the generals removed her and brought her to trial on a series of charges that could land her in jail for decades.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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