For more than three decades, Aung San Suu Kyi has fought for democracy in Myanmar. She rose to political prominence during the 8888 rebellion, named after the date it occurred, August 8, 1988, and has served as a beacon of hope for many that the country may one day become a true democracy.
But, at 78 years old, Suu Kyi is now behind prison as a result of the 2021 military coup, and her family claims she is in ill health.
As a result, some pro-democracy activists are preparing for a Myanmar after Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi has been in jail since more than two and a half years. She was condemned to 33 years in prison on a variety of junta-imposed offences, albeit six years were erased after a partial pardon.
According to DW, experts and observers, her prosecution and punishment for electoral fraud and corruption were highly politically driven.
According to sources close to Suu Kyi, she has chronic gum disease that has worsened in recent weeks, as well as low blood pressure. Kim Aris, Suu Kyi’s son, claims his mother has been vomiting, dizzy, and is being denied access to necessary health care.
According to a junta spokesman, Suu Kyi’s poor health is a rumor, as she receives frequent check-ups from doctors while imprisoned.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Deteriorating Health
Myanmar must face a new reality without Suu Kyi, according to David Scott Mathieson, a Myanmar analyst in Thailand. “Despite genuine concern about her allegedly deteriorating health, it is clear that Myanmar has entered a post-Aung San Suu Kyi reality.”
“One can lament the injustice of this, as it was the coup that hastened her almost inevitable decline in influence, or one can embrace the reality that a new generation of political thought and action is rendering Suu Kyi irrelevant,” Mathieson added.
Suu Kyi rose to prominence after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts to promote democracy in Myanmar. Her political organisation, the National League for democratic (NLD), arose from Myanmar’s 1988 democratic struggle against military authority, and Suu Kyi was released after 15 years in house imprisonment, finally leading her party to victory in Myanmar’s general elections in 2015 and 2020.
She has served as Myanmar’s State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs throughout her political career, and many in Myanmar regard her as a democratic icon who continues to enjoy widespread support.
However, Suu Kyi’s international reputation suffered as she was widely chastised for denying the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar in 2015. According to Mathieson, her influence and legacy were already dwindling previous to her recent arrest.
Suu Kyi defend Myanmar at The Hague
“Her politica l legacy has been irreparably damaged, and she is the primary cause of that self-immolation.” This involves not only her denial of atrocities against the Rohingya and her inexplicable decision to defend Myanmar at The Hague, but also her numerous faults as a political leader,” Mathieson told DW.
“She presided over a personality cult in which subservience was rewarded and expertise was valued over loyalty,” he continued. “She didn’t just fail to form coalitions with other political parties, civil society, and armed insurgents in a broad front against the military; she actively alienated potential allies.”
However, Aung Thu Nyein, a Myanmar political expert, claims that the party does not exist without its head.
“Without Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD is nothing.” Nobody, no Central Committee, no Executive Committee, can decide the fate of the NLD. But if she wants to keep the celebration going, she can. “She still has a large following and worshippers,” he remarked.
Suu Kyi’s party had won a landslide in the national elections in November 2020 prior to the 2021 coup, but the junta claimed electoral fraud had occurred.
The junta has waged a violent crackdown on any opposition, plunging the country into a continuous conflict. Those opposing the junta call it a revolution, while others call it a civil war. According to monitoring organisations, thousands of people have been killed and at least one million have been displaced.
Forming of the National Unity administration
Following the coup, Myanmar politicians and regional leaders formed the National Unity administration (NUG), claiming to be the country’s legitimate administration.
However, Aung Thu Nyein is unsure whether anyone can replace Suu Kyi and her influence at this moment.
“I don’t see a leadership replacement after her.” “The people in charge of the NUG are also juniors [in comparison] to her,” he remarked.
Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a renowned political activist in Myanmar formerly labelled “the new Aung San Suu Kyi,” believes her leadership is no longer necessary.
“Considering Myanmar’s 2021 Spring revolution began and persisted without her leadership, it becomes clear that our commitment to the country extends beyond any personal cult,” she told DW.
“She fulfilled her role but did not achieve success, leaving valuable lessons and ongoing challenges for future generations.”
To secure the success of our revolution, we must break with tradition and unite numerous ethnic groups in collective leadership. Myanmar’s struggle includes combating the notion that only a small group of political elite can determine our fate,” she continued.
According to Mathieson, the perception that Myanmar’s problems must be fixed by a select few with a “born-to-rule mindset” is causing frustration among the younger population.
They recognise that the struggle for liberation is about more than just releasing Suu Kyi from prison; it is about liberating the entire country from the hold of the military and permanently removing them from politics.
Mathieson believes that if Suu Kyi is ever released, it will not have the same impact as when she was previously released from house arrest.
“Does Aung San Suu Kyi have a place in this ‘New Burma?'” “She may have hopes for future leadership,” Mathieson says. “Rather than being a uniting figure, she could be an agent of fragmentation if released.” If she tries, she risks turning the revolution against herself.”