Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under house arrest, and a martyr; as a politician leader, she is under fire for her seeming compromises with the military.
According to a report this week on NPR, her iconic image has lost its luster because of her meetings with the military, her support for a copper mine with Chinese investors, and her willingness to negotiate with the new government.
When protesters from 26 villages in the Letpadaung area marched against the copper mine, “Aung San Suu Kyi defended the mine project, saying Burma should not back out of the project, as it would send a bad message to foreign investors.
She said the commission had considered three options: to continue with the project, to stop it, or to continue with changes. The commission adopted the third option.
“If we stopped it completely, where would we get money to heal the current environmental destruction?” she asked, according to the Associated Press.
“If we break the agreement made with another country, the countries of the world will suppose that Myanmar is financially unreliable,” Aung San Suu Kyi said.
“Stopping this project will not be beneficial to local people or to the country,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who will is spending two days in the area, also visited the mine construction site and a nearby sulphuric acid factory owned by UMEHL.”
Her decision, especially in the face of the injuries of protesters from gas and police violence, took her into the role of politician, and challenged her image as a peacekeeper and populist activist. Not everyone branded her as a traitor, however.
According to the NPR report, “U Win Htein, a member of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee, says that Suu Kyi’s handling of the Letpadaung inquiry won her respect within the ruling party, known as the USDP, and the military.
“She’s trying to prove to the people that she has the ability to lead the nation,” he says. “Because when the report of Letpadaung town was announced, many people from the USDP as well as from the army were satisfied that she is for real. She is for real, and she is fair.”
Suu Kyi has officially stepped off her pedestal, and now faces the contradictions, paradoxes and compromises of political leadership.
Her stance gave her some influence with the political network and the ruling party, and marks, in many ways,the fall from the pedestal of her years in house arrest. In my blog, I argued that her rise to power, through election, was gentle in a country marred by military control and fascism. But here, we see the challenge of leading in newly shifting democratic collaboration, and the cost of negotiating.
Whether her decisions benefit her country or not, they will be controversial. Only time will tell how she is ultimately assessed as a leader.