x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

A beacon of hope shines in Myanmar once again

The release of Aung San Suu Kyi returns to the world a symbol of the power of peaceful resistance.

The release of The Lady will have reverberations far beyond the borders of Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the last 21 years under the lock and key of the country's military dictatorship, unwavering in her commitment to non-violent opposition and her steadfast grace under fire. As much as any other leader alive today, she is a symbol of the power of peaceful resistance.

The junta need only review the history of movements led by Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King to foretell the eventual fate of their regime.

Whether Ms Suu Kyi will spearhead this change remains an open question. While members of Myanmar's banned opposition party, the National League for Democracy, are steadfastly loyal to her principles, many question her strategy. After years in almost total isolation, some doubt whether she can or should lead the fight against the junta.

The generals did everything they could to rig recent events. Their political proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, appears to have won an absurd 80 per cent of the vote in elections earlier this month. Keeping Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest on dubious charges, and banning her from holding political office in any event, have betrayed their thoughts: they are afraid of her.

And rightly so. In a police state where monks are beaten in the streets and dissidents disappeared into gulags, thousands of residents of Yangon braved the regime yesterday to welcome her release. Ms Suu Kyi has come to represent not only opposition to an unjust regime. She represents what the country could have been. When the generals revolted against the election results of 1990 - an election that Ms Suu Kyi resoundingly won - they plunged the country into another two decades of agony.

Myanmar now stands among those states whose governments are defined by the pain they inflict upon their own people. Like few other leaders on the world stage, Ms Suu Kyi brings these injustices into sharp focus and shows that a better, more just future is possible.

"There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fail," said another giant of peaceful resistance, Mahatma Gandhi. It is a philosophy that has informed Ms Suu Kyi's long struggle. Across the world, those labouring under the yoke of oppression should also take heart.