by Peter Popham (Random House) ISBN: 9781846042492
Elegant, beautiful and detained for more than twenty years: most people don’t know how to pronounce her name, but she is by far the most famous woman politician in the world, never to have held office.
Just like in the neighbouring countries, Aung San Suu Kyi was the daughter of an assassinated national hero. She became the closest Burma had to royalty. She challenged the army dictator and won elections that were ignored, but as Popham remarks, ‘he had the gun and she had only flowers to throw’.
Popham paints a picture of Suu, not with blind admiration, but from a balanced, thoroughly researched viewpoint, even though Suu does not officially endorse the book. The biography is enlivened with details through interviews with friends and family ‘We refused to be arrested without French perfume,’ as one friend comments.
Popham brings across the oppression over the years and he shows that Suu’s impact is spiritual as well as political. As opposed to the Orwellian calls of discipline by the ruling party, her permanent call to non-violent resistance is an example of Gandhi’s ideals.
With the elections in April, for which Suu, free since 2010, is now an official candidate, this is a very topical subject.