Features include interactive map, in-depth stories, and more.Download now. »
The week's top five must-sees,
delivered to your inbox.
LinkAsia | Nov 21
US President Barack Obama's historic visit to Myanmar drew jubilant crowds. But as contributor Kenneth Wong reports from Rangoon, many there believ...
Aung San Suu Kyi is back in Burma after a triumphant visit to the US. She was feted in Washington, received the Congressional gold medal for her human rights work, and addressed Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. She also got a chance to meet Burmese exiles, people who fled the military dictatorship over the past five decades. One of her last stops was in San Francisco, home to the largest Burmese community in the US. The Lady, as she's called, got a big welcome.
Aung San Suu Kyi, she's our hope, our leader, and our shining star, and she's a beacon for the democracy movement all over the world.
She told her audience that they had a duty to help re-build Burma and provide it with badly-needed skills and capital. Her message was heard loud and clear.
Before I only heard about her character. Now that I have witnessed it with my own eyes, I'm even more impressed than before.
Right, I am very optimistic. I really want to go back to my country once I finish my studies here. And then once I feel confident that I have something that I can give back to my people I'm very optimistic that I can help them.
Kenneth Wong is a Burmese-American journalist who left after student demonstrations were crushed by the military in 1988. He's been following the reaction in social media to Suu Kyi's US visit.
Suu Kyi's last stop got her Burmese American supporters to do a lot of soul searching, to take stock of the Burmese community's weaknesses and strength, and to shift from thinking of themselves as political activists and dissidents-in-exile to possibly going home to help their fellow countrymen.
One person here, a famous Burmese novelist now living in San Francisco, wrote a poem based on Suu Kyi's warning against self-interest and personal gain. "Those who are always motivated by 'My rank, My entitlement, and My position,' always dictating public affairs-- They are prone to lead us astray." Another explicitly shows hope for Suu Kyi's party to claim victory in the 2015 election. "If you love her, trust her, be with her"
But the hope for Burma's Democratic future is also tempered by anxieties and questions about national unity and ethnic harmony.
Here is a former student leader named Ko Ko Lay, a veteran of the 1988 uprising. Quoting Suu Kyi's San Francisco speech, he wrote, "Burma is a nation of many ethnic nationalities... and the fires of conflict have not all died out."
Perhaps the biggest fire threatening the country right now is the religious and ethnic conflicts in the Rakhine state in western Burma. Here, someone complained in Burmese that, while it's delightful to see American media's coverage of Suu Kyi's visit, it's also marred by the presence of a group of Muslim protesters who felt Suu Kyi hasn't spoken out enough in support of their cause.
Suu Kyi's visit in the US may be grabbing the media spot light in the International press, but back home in Burma, Burma's president Thein Sein is also getting a lot of attention.
The affection with which the Burmese greeted him upon his return from the UN is also unprecedented. You see young people carrying signs that say, "We love and support our president" -- This is quite a rockstar-like welcome for a member of Burma's former military regime.
There is still lingering questions about the president's sincerity. Perhaps this is why the seemingly ordinary exchange during Thein Sein's unscheduled meeting with Suu Kyi in New York is creating a lot of buzz in social media.
It's a pretty mundane chat. She asked about the flight over. He admitted to being tired, before remarking that she seemed to have lost some weight. This exchange that shows warmth and good will between two is generating a lot of optimism.
The first commenter gushes in Burmese: "What a delightful scene!" That was followed by another comment in English in the same vein.
Thein Sein and Suu Kyi's ability to work together is crucial to bring about the kind of reforms that will solidify Burma's democratic future. Ordinary Burmese are anxiously searching for confirmation that they can together lead Burma through its precarious early days of transition.
Unlike their formal interactions in Burma's Parliament, the unscripted small talk between Suu Kyi and Thein Sein doesn't touch on Burma's controversial Constitution, the Army's role, or Suu Kyi's run for presidency. Yet, this harmless, trivial, domestic exchange bolsters so much confidence among the average citizens because it shows the two political rivals who, a couple of years ago, could not pose for a simple handshake are now embracing each other like next-door neighbors.
Kenneth Wong is a freelance journalist who will be going back to Burma this November.