VOA Burmese Blog

March 4, 2011

VOGUE – Beauty and the Beast Feature on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is featured in Vogue magazine under the title, Beauty and the Beast. Referred to as the ” Lady” often in Burma, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is portrayed as the Beauty and military dictator General Than Shwe, as the Beast. The article spoke of Aung San Suu Kyi on a human level and described the love story of she and her late husband, Michael Vaillancourt Aris, the strict guidance of her mom and the strength and purity of Suu Kyi’s character.

In the article, the author, Elizabeth Rubin described General Than Shwe’s awkward superstitious beliefs as he follows every instruction his astrologers tell him. Than Shwe even spread castor oil plant called Kyet Su on the ground because his fortune teller told him that this action would make Suu Kyi ” lose” her power and strength. Planting Kyet Su was horrible for the people of Burma. Farmers lost acres of their land- planting kyet su, and the plant had a poisonous effect on the land and the people, yet Than Shwe made sure the plant was planted across Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi loved to read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes while under house arrest, and she also read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. She said the protagonist Jean Valjean was her hero.


There is a movie of Aung San Suu Kyi’s life by the actress Michelle Yeoh that will come out soon. Yeoh, known for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will be playing Suu Kyi.

House Arrest :

The author stated that part of the reason why Suu Kyi kept sane under her years of house arrest was because of her character- “vigilant, disciplined and regimented”.  She had no TV or Internet connection, and the way she kept in touch with the outside world was through the radio. She listened to the radio 5 or 6 hours daily- she made it her duty. ( FYI- Daw Suu listens to VOA radio service daily, and knows most of our staff in the Burmese service.)

SANCTIONS DEBATE: DASSK is blamed for the isolation of Burma as much as General Than Shwe is blamed

Even her biggest supporters say that there is a big gap ideologically, technologically and generationally in Aung San Suu Kyi’s thinking. She lived in a bubble and was isolated for so long. Ironically, people blame the country’s isolation to Aung San Suu Kyi as much as they blame General Than Shwe.


They say that Suu Kyi concentrates on moral principles- purity of the democratic movement, but people are suffering economically. Daw Suu’s speeches in the 1990’s stated that ” man is more than an economical creature”, however, the country is suffering economically- Burma has one of the worst health systems in the world. HIV, malaria, food and fuel inflation are some of the factors of the degrading economy. The Burmese are recuperating from the Nargis aftermath and the monks led the Saffron Revolution due to the rise in fuel price. An economist said, ” I told her that the people wanted rice!”

Sanctions Debate

Because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her advocates are supporting Western sanctions on Burma, Western politicians or donors are also hesitant to go against the Nobel laureate’s stance. There is no World Bank, International Monetary Fund assistance (IMF), micro loans, and there is very little humanitarian aid in the country. Burma is among the lowest per capita in the world.

In 1996, Aung San Suu Kyi said in a speech, ” There’s no time for humanitarian aid. We need political change. ” A European doctor in Burma responded to her speech, ” Well, I wish you luck, but in the meantime, the people are dying like rats.”

Sanctions have helped end apartheid in South Africa and have helped in other countries around the world, but the author says that it may be a different situation in Burma. Sanctions have also left many countries poor- and the governments victim to sanctions may be reliant on their neighbors. Burma for example, depends on its neighbors, China, India, and Thailand, and these neighbors are also taking advantage of Burma’s natural resources. One woman said we need to ” de-isolate Burma and the military.” The military understands nothing about pollution, environmental regulations…


People who believe in the third force and the middle way, want Burma to open up to Western companies and they are training for a civil society that would include people from the regime- police and civil servants. It would be a compromise. The people are telling Daw Suu that they want a compromise.

Conclusion of the magazine article:

Everyone wants Daw Suu to do everything- to be an advocate, economist, psychologist and much more, however Daw Suu says she doesn’t know if she has done anything she could be proud of; only when Burma achieves democracy she will know.



  1. […] See example here: VOGUE – Beauty and the Beast Feature on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi « VOA … […]

    Pingback by VOGUE – Beauty and the Beast Feature on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi « VOA … | Fashion — March 5, 2011 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  2. […] personal risk, gave an eloquent voice to the suffering of a nation.  She is, at least in part, responsible for western sanctions against Burma and the attention that is paid to the country by the international community.  […]

    Pingback by Reflections on a Journey Part III — Changed Perceptions of Burma « Burma Perspective — July 17, 2011 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

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