Tue 22 Apr 2014
Filed under: DASSK,Inside Burma,News
When the chairwoman of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, Madame Aung San Suu Kyi entered a conference room in northern Yangon, more than 300 reporters from 30+ countries had been waiting for a long time. People, including the reporter from Global Times, stood up and watched her walking in for yet another social event. This is the opening ceremony of the “2014 International Media Conference”. Aung San Suu Kyi was the guest of honor invited by the host, the East-West Center from the U.S. At this March event, she talked about media freedom and responsibility, Myanmar’s changes and hopes. The speech did not have much emotion, but definitely a lot of strength, full of rhetoric and imitation of western-style democratic speeches. The whole room applauded her. At that very moment, she was the “democratic hero” of the world.
The reality is far from this simple. Three years into the democratic transition, Aung San Suu Kyi, as the daughter and heiress of General Aung San, has developed an increasingly blurry identity. Now the people in Myanmar have begun to ask: Is she the agent, the tool or the hope of democracy? In Myanmar, what’s becoming more clear is the hand of the U.S. pushing for democracy: the host of the conference, East-West Center was founded by the U.S. Congress half a century ago; the NGO Aung San Suu Kyi launched at the conference – the Suu Fund, is registered in the state of Delaware in the U.S. The Fund focuses on the promotion of Myanmar’s health and education development.
The brochure of the “2014 International Media Conference”, describes Aung San Suu Kyi as “the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate”, a “supporter of democracy” who “returned to politics after years of house arrest”. Yangon’s noon temperature in March is higher than 35 celsius. More than 300 people arrived one or two hours earlier than she. The small room didn’t offer enough seats, so people stood against the walls or stuck themselves between the cameras in the back. The arrival of Aung San Suu Kyi sent excitement across the room. Many people stood up only to be asked to sit down again. The 68 year-old lady was elegant and graceful. She just arrived by air and will fly to Naypyidaw right after. In Myanmar, people talk about the new capital with a sense of distance – “95% of the Burmese population doesn’t know what it looks like.”
“Without freedom of the media, there is no leash on power.” For Aung San Suu Kyi, more freedom means more responsibility. She said at the conference: “Don’t think that the democratic system gives you unlimited freedom without demanding the same amount of responsibility.” She believes that reporters in this country need more training during the democratic transition. “We have ambitions. Myanmar does not only want to be a successful state, it also wants to become a global model and the hope for other countries that have not yet succeeded.” Aung San Suu Kyi knows clearly that her words will be widely spread by the reporters at the conference.