Did Aung San Suu Kyi Ever Go Outside?

I wasn’t sure whether to post this on my regular blogroll, or under “Ruminations” – it runs the emotional gamut. I guess I’ll just file it under both.

Last night, I went to an event at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT). My jet-setting friends/gurus Eli and Therese have tried to persuade me to accompany them to club events several times, and I finally caved. My post-thesis world news hiatus needs to end, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start. The event was a screening of the film “Aung San Suu Kyi: The Choice” a BBC documentary about the confinement of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political hero, followed by a question period with the filmmakers.

The room was full of crusty old men and hardened reporters.

We did our best to fit in by looking profound.

The film was a moving portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi. While I was aware of the basic details of her imprisonment (20 years of house arrest in Burma), I wasn’t aware that she had a family in the UK, or that the Myanmar junta would have allowed her to go to the UK (but not return). The film, while subtle, explored the choice that she made: to remain in Burma while in the UK, her sons were growing up and her husband was dying of cancer. It raised many more questions than it answered. I’m not sure that there’s any point in speculating as to whether she made the “right” choice or not, but the story did give a fuller picture as to the sacrifices that she made, both for herself and on behalf of her children. While it was sad to learn that her husband died while she chose to remain in prison, it was a choice that they made together. It was far sadder to watch the intimate portrait of her sons, and to see how damaged they were by their parents’ choices. It is interesting to draw a parallel between Suu Kyi’s story and that of Benazir Bhutto. There are many similarities, but Bhutto eventually chose exile rather than house arrest. I wonder what would have happened in Burma if Suu Kyi had made a similar choice.

http://www.ddinews.gov.in/NR/rdonlyres/E7AA8B05-9452-4C8E-B89C-A64A76C932D6/8461/b3aa5647c54aeb78b58dfeec186fec7b.jpg

After the film, there was a question period with the filmmakers.

It brought me back to my halcyon days of academic conferences, where the questioners seem more eager to display their immense knowledge of a topic rather than to ask genuine questions. In this case, however, it was less “let me show you how smart I am,” and more “let me show you how intimately acquainted I am with this particular political prisoner.” The moderator was the main offender at this event. The question period went something like this:

Filmmaker: “Interestingly enough, during her house arrest, Suu Kyi rarely went outside. She would only go into the garden for photo shoots.”

Moderator: “Well, I remember when I visited her in 1988, she loved to feed the rooks in the garden using a small handful of bread, blahblahblah.”

It was a bit disappointing, particularly after the film offered so much real food for thought. After 30 minutes or so of this, we attempted to discreetly sneak out, but you can only be so discreet when you’re sitting in the front row. Oops.

Even though I could have done without the question-period posturing, I did appreciate the film, and it gave me some real food for thought. I’m slowly immerging from world news hibernation.

What do you think? I dig discussion!

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