Editorial Comment: The long road ahead for Burma – and the world
AUNG San Suu Kyi was at pains to remind the doting crowds who greeted her on her European tour that the problems Burma faces are far from over and her own release was a small step on a very long road. Yet Suu Kyi’s remarkably successful trip abroad reminded us all that no matter how dark the situation may seem, there is always hope for change.
She seemed genuinely horrified at the idea that some people treated her like a living saint or that she was somehow infallible. Giving a series of TV interviews on her visit to England, the aging democracy campaigner shirked the labels some in the west have given her. She remained humble but hopeful and looking back on her long years of house arrest, cut off from the world and separated from her family, she said she had no regrets. Her country needed her and she did her duty. She would continue to “try her best”. It is a pity that motto hasn’t been taken up more widely.
Politicians clamoured to meet her, ignoring for a few hours their relentless budget slashing and habitual back biting. Even the British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Labour opposite, Ed Miliband, shared a chuckle as Suu Kyi explained how the Burmese parliament had no heckling. And then after constant media coverage, plaudits from political leaders of all colours and meetings with interviewers who seemed more starstruck than probing, we were able to forget about the little Burmese woman and get back to the important things – deficit reduction, Eurozone debt, economic recovery. The brief glimmer of light Suu Kyi had brought passed away and the grim reality of austerity returned.
It’s unlikely our politicians were trying to learn anything from Suu Kyi’s years of selfless sacrifice and more likely they were vying for a photo opportunity with one of the world’s most famous and admired women. But Suu Kyi’s speeches and interviews not only shed light on the problems facing Burma but also the state of the world. Western governments seem stuck on the path of cut, loan, borrow, reduce, blame, prevaricate - the economic crisis has not brought out the best in our politicians. But the conditions in Europe, though economically speaking the worst they have been since the 1930s, cannot compare to the oppression and hopelessness of living under Burma’s military junta, or the many regimes like it all across the world.
Perspective can be a bitter medicine and it would be a brave (or foolish) politician who told the Greeks to look at dire situations elsewhere. Burma has a long road ahead of it; the military shows little sign of giving up power, religious violence has erupted in some areas and the international community is unsure how to act. But a long road lies ahead of the west, too. The path to economic recovery does not seem to be in sight. Many people, most notably the poorest, may get lost along the way to recovery. Our politicians should take note of Aung San Suu Kyi’s sacrifice and resolve. We will need both to build a sustainable future.
Posted by Darragh Roche, Editor on at 1:05 pm.
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