But what political interests lie behind the high-sounding rhetoric and noble sentiments of Aung San Suu Kyi and her Western supporters?
Aung San Suu Kyi is a social democrat and daughter of the British-installed ex-Prime Minister of Burma (Myanmar, for US readers), Aung San. Until November 2010, she had been placed under house arrest by the ruling Burmese junta, which is heavily under the influence of China. Winner of the Nobel peace prize in 1991, she has become a key focus of Western imperial ambition in Burma and the poster girl of ‘pro-democracy’ activists.
Crucially, Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy, is seen by Western states as the best hope of gaining political leverage and curtailing the influence of Chinese imperialism in the region. Although British and US capital investment in Burma is significant, Western states have a clear interest in destabilising the pro-Chinese leadership of a country that is as rich in mineral and gas deposits as it is in geo-strategic potential.
This accounts for the BBC Radio 4 tribute to Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (18 June 2010) and the welter of fawning features about her in the Western media following her release from house arrest last year. And there's more - much more - to come. Luc Besson's tribute film The Lady is now forthcoming. Some idea of the level of analysis to expect from the movie is suggested by Besson's description of Aung San Suu Kyi as 'very Gandhi like' and 'more of a heroine than Joan of Arc' (although presumably, despite the Buddhist tradition of political self-immolation, this lady is not for burning). At least Michelle Yeoh, who stars in the film, seems to appreciate just what a slender thing Suu Kyi is. Apparently she said of her meeting with The Lady: 'the first thing we did is hug and I thought: "you are really skinny, man".'