musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

The Lady and the General

Many people forget — or simply don’t realize — that Aung San Suu Kyi comes from a military background, her father being the famous Bogyoke (the word means “General” in Burmese) Aung San. General Aung San is often called the founder, or “Father,” of modern Burma, due to the fact that he was instrumental in securing the country’s independence from British colonial rule in the late 1940s. Tragically, he was assassinated in 1947, at the age of 32, only six months before Burma officially gained its independence. His daughter, Suu Kyi, was only two years old at the time.


Even though General Aung San remained a revered figure in the country, during the subsequent junta rule, particularly since1988, references to his legacy were rare. It didn’t help matters when his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988, after many years of living overseas, to care for ailing mother, and then became a very vocal supporter of student protests against the military government. That led to her forming the NLD (National League for Democracy) and becoming a potent political force in her own right. And we all know how that turned out. For most of the next two decades Aung San Suu Kyi lived under house arrest, not permitted to travel or speak to her followers.


That situation, of course has changed in the past year. Not only is “The Lady” now free to travel — both around Myanmar and overseas — but there has been a sudden and remarkable shift towards tolerance for things previously forbidden. Thus, you can now see Aung San Suu Kyi on the covers of local newspapers and magazines, and in framed photos on walls of homes, restaurants, and teashops. She’s everywhere! And her father, the handsome young General, has also made a comeback, his portrait adorning t-shirts, hats, signs, and even the sides of pickup trucks. Clearly, it’s the dawn of a new era in Myanmar.


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