She was a heroine of our time, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a symbol of supreme courage in the face of tyranny. Then, in 2010, Burma’s generals opened the door a chink: Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, and her country began to change.
Suu Kyi’s acclaimed biographer, Peter Popham, describes what happened next. Travelling across the country, meeting aristocrats, monks and politicians, freedom fighters, punks and rebels, he shows how hope has slowly returned to the lives of ordinary Burmese. He also examines the fate of the hill tribes, and how the world’s politicians and businessmen are striving for influence.
But with greater openness, long-suppressed prejudices have burst into the open: intolerant Buddhist preachers have whipped up the latent hostility of the Burmese against people of other races and beliefs, especially the Muslim Rohingya.
When Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament, she began to negotiate with the military. Yet she has declined to take a firm stand on minority rights – to the dismay of many in the West. The Lady and the Generals offers a trenchant and compelling portrait of this fascinating country and asks where Burma and Suu Kyi herself – with her bravery, her brilliance and her limitations – are heading next.
Praise for The Lady and the Peacock:
'What a gift to our world and what a splendid telling of [Aung San Suu Kyi's life]. We are deeply indebted to Peter Popham for such a superb account' - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
'Sensitive and moving' - Sunday Times
'Beautifully written and compelling in every aspect' - Joanna Lumley
'Warm and objective...will not be bettered for a long time' - Independent on Sunday
Peter Popham's major new biography of Aung San Suu Kyi draws upon previously untapped testimony and fresh revelations to tell the story of a woman whose bravery and determination have captivated people around the globe. Celebrated today as one of the world's greatest exponents of non-violent political defiance since Mahatma Gandhi, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only four years after her first experience of politics.
In April 1988, Suu Kyi returned from Britain to Burma to nurse her sick mother but, within six months, found herself the unchallenged leader of the largest popular revolt in the history of Burma. When the party she co-founded won a landslide victory in Burma's first free elections for thirty years, she was already under house arrest and barred from taking office by the military junta.
Since then, 'The Lady' has set about transforming her country ethically as well as politically, displaying dazzling courage in the process. Under house arrest for 15 of the previous 20 years, she has come close to being killed by her political enemies and her commitment to peaceful revolution has come at extreme personal cost.
In November 2010, after fraudulent elections in which she played no part, Suu Kyi was again freed. She was greeted by ecstatic crowds but only time will tell what role this remarkable woman will have in the future of her country.
Peter Popham has toured Burma as an undercover journalist many times since his first visit to the country in 1991. A foreign correspondent and commentator with the Independent newspaper, he covered South Asia (including Burma) for a period in the late 90s. Popham interviewed Suu Kyi when she was released from house arrest in 2002, and has met her again several times. He lives in London.