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FILMS
Chapter Samples: The Lady

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YEAR OF RELEASE: 2011, Cohen Media Group

COUNTRY: Myanmar/ Burma

DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

LANGUAGE: English, Burmese

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

RATING: Unrated

CURRICULUM THEMES:

Chapter's Key Themes:

  • Military Dictatorship; student demonstrations World History: Colonialism; World War II and General Aung San
  • Geography: The Golden Land; Southeast Asia
  • Economics: Relations with China
  • Civics, Citizenship and Government: National League for Democracy (NLD); Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic; Parliament; Ethnic Groups

LITERATURE and VISUAL ARTS:

  • World Literature: Biography; Manifesto; Letters
  • Media Studies: Film Clips and Scene Discussions; Cinematography Techniques; Emphasis by contrast
  • Creative Writing/ Critical Thinking: political symbol; spiritual strength; moral dilemma
  • Art: Oriental Music
  • Technology: Computer Use

INTRODUCTION:

The Lady was directed by Luc Besson; produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, Andy Harries, and Jean Todt; edited by Julien Rey; music by Eric Serra and Thierry Arbogast; and distributed by EuropaCorp (France), Entertainment Film Distributors (UK), Cohen Media Group (US), and Golden Scene Company Limited (Hong Kong) in 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi................................................................Michelle Yeoh

Michael Aris........................................................................ David Thewelis

Alexander Aris....................................................................Jonathan Woodhouse

Kim Aris..............................................................................Jonathan Raggett

     The mark of a hero is a person who has the courage and conviction to sacrifice everything for a Belief or Vision and act as we ordinary mortals do not dare. Such is the Lady, the protagonist of the film and the real-life icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, of Myanmar. She never gives up fighting the injustices of Burma's military junta that has been in power since 1958. Despite numerous attempts of assassination, imprisonment and house arrest of more than 15 years, Aung San Suu Kyi defies the Burmese Generals with patience, non-violence and adoration from her Burmese people.

     The film's release came propitiously at the time of the first democratic elections in Myanmar in 2012. The Lady was allowed to lead her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and won 43 seats in Parliament. Her courage has inspired not only the Burmese but all people around the world who believe in Freedom.

 

PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN BURMESE HISTORY:

1886-1920s:

  • After three wars between Great Britain and Burma over a period of 60 years, the British successfully colonized Burma in 1886. Burma became a province of British India, with Rangoon as its capital.
  • The British created divisions within Burma by favoring some ethnic minorities over others, for example by giving them positions in the military and in local rural administrations. These ethnic divisions affect Burma even today.

1920s-1935:

  • The leaders of the anti-colonial movement were intellectuals (especially law students who had studied abroad), students, and Buddhist monks.
  • The Students Union at Rangoon University was at the forefront of the movement by 1935. Aung San, a young law student, emerged as a leader, organizing strikes at the university and gathering the support of the nation.

1940-1945:

  • Aung San and 29 others, known as the Thirty Comrades, underwent military training in Japan, and in 1941 they fought alongside the Japanese who invaded Burma. The Japanese promised Burma's freedom if they defeated the British.
  • When it became clear that the Japanese did not plan to uphold their deal, General Aung San renegotiated with the British.

1947:

  • In January, Aung San reaches agreement with the British granting Burma total independence.
  • In July, Aung San's party draft new democratic constitution. General Aung San and his cabinet are assassinated by an opposition group.

Jan. 4, 1948:

  • Burma officially granted independence from Great Britain.
  • 1948-1958:
  • Constant challenges to the new regime by communists and ethnic groups that felt underrepresented.
  • This was a period of intense civil war. The economy was weak.
1958-1960:

  • General Ne Win took control of the country in order to "restore law and order" to Burma, in 1958. In 1960 he stages a coup and became Burma's military dictator.
  • 1960-1988:

    • Isolation ideology: Burma retreated from interaction with the international community; there were few visitors from outside the country, and the ones that came were restricted to the capital, Rangoon.

    1988:

    • Democracy Summer: in July 1988, Ne Win announced he was giving up his position. Demonstrations broke out in Rangoon. The following month, troops began a four-day massacre, killing at least 10,000 civilians.
    • This happened to be the year that Aung San Suu Kyi returned from abroad to care for her mother. In an attempt to pacify the international community, the government decided to hold elections; Suu and her colleagues founded the National League for Democracy (NLD), which rapidly gained support.

    1989:

    • In July, Suu was placed under house arrest for the first time, for a period of six years.

    1990:

    • With Suu under house arrest, the government held elections as promised. The NLD won with 82% of the vote. The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) refused to acknowledge the results.
    1997:
    • The SLORC was replaced by the State Peace and Development Council, but human rights violations continued to be reported. Both the U.S. and the E.U intensified sanctions against Burma.

    2000:

    • Suu was placed under house arrest again for two years.

    2003:

    • Suu once against placed under house arrest, in the middle of reconciliation talks with the government.

    2007:

    • There was a powerful wave of anti-government protests; the immediate cause was the decision of the government to remove fuel subsidies, which led to the skyrocketing of gas prices. Many protests were led by Buddhist monks, called the Safron Revolution. The government dealt with these protests harshly.

     

    PRE-SCREENING QUESTIONS:

    1. Instead of imprisoning or assassinating Aung San Suu Kyi when she was rapidly gaining power and support, the government placed her under house arrest. She was in and out of house arrest from 1989 until she was released in 2010.

     Suggested Activities:

    •  Students can brainstorm the thinking behind the choice to place Suu under house arrest rather than more typical and forceful methods. What made Suu different from other political enemies? What does house arrest mean? Cite evidence from the film to back up your definition. Is house arrest a milder or worse punishment than imprisonment?

     Hints:

    • House arrest is a legal penalty in which a person is confined to his or her home, often without the possibility to travel. It has often been used against political dissidents in authoritarian regimes. There is no access to communication, whether with other people or electronically.
    • While the death of General Aung San did halt the pro-democracy movement, it had an unexpected effect on the people – they united under him as a symbol. The government feared if they killed Suu, she, too, would become a martyr.
    • Suu, having studied abroad at Oxford, and having her family in England, could attract unwanted international attention against Burma's military This was the thinking behind Michael's attempt to get Suu nominated for the Nobel Prize; anything that made her famous would protect her, because the government would not risk international disfavor.

    2. In one scene, Suu shares a quotation: "You may not think about politics, but politics thinks about you." Suu frequently makes attempts to emphasize the "human aspect" of politics, to reclaim the term from corrupt politicians and make it for the people, and about the people.

    Suggested Activities:

    • Students can make a list of possible reasons why Suu gained support from the people so rapidly. Cite evidence from the film, but also use your imagination.

    Hints:

    • Her father, General Aung San, was already a symbol of democracy and respect; as his daughter, Suu, too, became a symbol, taking up her father's mantel. Also partly thanks to her father's influence, Suu had a network of like-minded colleagues ready to help her. The movement did not start from scratch, as it would have if she were a new figure.
    • She spoke of politics not as something only a certain elite can understand, but as something that affects every person and that gets its power from them. This humanization of politics probably interested a lot more people, who had previously left politics to the "experts."
    • Having studied abroad at Oxford and lived in a democracy, Suu had more practical knowledge of how democracy worked, rather than just a vague, idealistic notion. Her devotion to her country and her determination inspired many people. She was allowed many times to leave Burma but the knowledge that she wouldn't be allowed back in the country kept her from leaving.

     3. After independence, Burma was weak economically, politically, and socially, despite being supported by the colonial empire of Great Britain for so long.

    Suggested Activities:

    • In groups, students can discuss the ways in which long-term colonialism weakened Burma, rather than strengthened it. Do extra research where necessary. Then, as a group, write down an argument, three supporting sentences, and a conclusion. Share with the class.

    Hints:

    • The British favored certain ethnic groups over others, giving them government and military positions. This created tension between Burma's ethnic minorities as each of them vied for favor and their own independence. Burma has 135 ethnic groups; each one speaking a different dialectic and having different religions. Some examples are the Kachins, Karans, Kayans, and Rohingyas (Muslims). Tensions still remain today.
    • Other cultural changes were made that fractured society. The British forcefully separated religion from state; but now, Buddhism (Theravada format) is very important in all aspects of Burmese life.
    • Having the British in main positions of government meant that it was harder for the Burmese to rule their own country when it was returned to them.
    • Many intellectuals had the opportunity to study abroad during colonialism, like Aung San Suu Kyi, and many settled in that country. Thus, there was an exodus of Burma's potential leaders. This caused a "brain drain" effect on their present society.

    PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN FILM:

    • Suu not only gathered support from the people of Burma, but she also gave hope and courage to her people by her example to sacrifice everything for freedom.
    • In 1988, she returns to Burma to visit her sick mother, and witnesses first-hand the cruelty of the military regime. With remarkable spirit, determination, and knowledge, as well as the love of her family and country, Suu becomes a democracy fighter herself. The Lady is the biography of Burma's freedom fighter gifted with a great capacity to love, following her through imprisonment, the winning of the Nobel Prize, and the eventual choice between family and country.

    POST-SCREENING QUESTIONS:

    HISTORY and SOCIAL SCIENCE:

    1. What steps did the government take against Aung San Suu Kyi to try to stop her influence?  
    2. What steps did the government take in general to stop criticism and uprisings from the general population?

    Hints:

    • Government oppression generally involved force: uprisings and riots were put down often with gunfire and arrests. They took many political prisoners and silenced anyone whom they saw as a threat. We see evidence of this in an early scene in the film, in which Suu is witness to indiscriminate violence at the hospital where her mom was being treated.
    •  As time passed, however, the tactics of the military government changed and gained more subtlety. In the film we see Suu and Michael watching TV when the general declared upcoming elections. This was to create the illusion of a conciliatory government. However, as shown later in the film, they never intended to loosen their hold on the country or to allow anyone else any influence in politics. Suu was placed under house arrest as soon as she was declared the winner of the election in 1988-89 by a large margin.

    LITERATURE and VISUAL ARTS:

    1. What conflicts does Suu confront? How do they change her?  
    2. What is the significance of the title The Lady?  
    3. Love for her country and people are the main reasons that Suu succeeded. Consider the opening scenes of the film, and compare to the rest of the film. Why is the setting made to be so idyllic and beautiful? Why does it begin with the story that General Aung San tells his daughter?  
    4. What was the significance of the scene in which Suu faces the gun of a military man head on, paralleling the scene of her father's death?

    CURRICULUM THEMES:

    A. HISTORY and SOCIAL SCIENCE:

    CHAPTER'S KEY THEMES: Military Dictatorship

    a. On March 2nd, 1962, General Ne Win led the Burmese military in a coup d'etat. Almost all aspects of society were nationalized under the military's slogan: "Burmese Way to Socialism." In reality, the Socialism became a dictatorial military rule. Several aspects of this policy were:

    • Nationalization in the style of the Soviet Union 1974 Constitution ensuring a one-party system The "Burmese Way to Socialism" is the ideology of the government after 1962.
    • The treatise sought to reduce foreign influence in Burma and to expand the role of the military. Over time, this policy turned Burma from one of the richest Asian countries (as the General tells his 2-year-old- daughter) to one of the poorest in the world, as shown by the crowded conditions of the hospital.

    Suggested Activities:

    • In groups, have students research the features and the effect of the Burmese Way to Socialism as the chart below summarizes:
    • Extensive dependence on military
    • Extreme nationalism
    • Marxist/socialist, anti-Western; xenophobia and a policy of isolationism
    • Emphasis on rural population over urban
    • Create national identity among disparate ethnic minorities and Burmese.
    • Extensive visa restrictions for Burmese citizens especially to go to the West; yet, the government sponsored travel to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
    • Negatively impacted the economy, educational standards, living conditions
    • Freedom of expression severely limited
    • Foreign language publications prohibited
    • The Press Scrutiny Board was established to censor publications
    • Nationalization of industries such as trade, banking, mining, rice, etc.
    • The black market thrived, representing about 80% of the national economy during the Socialist period
    • Ne Win was overthrew in a military junta. His family was imprisoned and he was put under house arrest at his home on Inye Lake, on the opposite bank, facing the Lady during her house arrest.

    Suggested Activities:


    Students can identify in groups some scenes in the film which illustrate the political policies and military dictatorship of the country as described above.

    Hints:

  • Nearly every time Suu talked to someone on the phone, the line was interrupted. Interference in a person's private life is a key characteristic of authoritarian regimes.
  • The violence at the hospital scene, where Suu witnessed military men indiscriminately shooting people.
  • The imprisonment in inhumane conditions of Suu's colleagues. To protest this, we see Suu refuse to eat while under house arrest.

    b. Student Demonstrations

  • The most noteworthy wave of demonstrations came in 1988-1989, when unrest over economic and political mismanagement led to widespread pro-democracy movements known as the 8888 Uprising. This is because the protest began in Rangoon on 8/8/1988. This was the period in which Suu came to Burma to visit her sick mother.
  • The Inya Lake riots were among the first of the 8888 Uprising. Inya Lake, the largest lake in Rangoon, is located right next to Rangoon University. Students marched, demanding an end to one-party rule and were met violently by soldiers who clubbed many students to death.

    1. WORLD HISTORY:
    a. Colonialism (1824-1948):
    Though the film is set after independence, the ties to the British are still felt. Suu herself studied abroad at Oxford; her and Michael's network of British professors is solid, and it helped her in the quest to the Nobel Prize. Furthermore, when Michael goes to print pro-democracy pamphlets, he is helped by the British ambassador in Burma.

    Suggested Activities:
    . In groups, students can do some research and then create a three-way Venn diagram, organizing the changes that colonialism brought to Burma as political, economic, or social.

    b. World War II and General Aung San:
    . General Aung San, the Lady's father, was at center stage pre-, during and post-World War II:
    . In October 1938, Aung San left his law classes and entered national politics. At this point, he was anti-British. He helped organize a series of countrywide strikes. He also became the founder and secretary-general of the Communist Party on Burma in1939.
    . In 1940 he went to Japan with 29 colleagues, where they learned military training to support Japan and the Axis during the War. Aung San was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun by Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
    . On 1 August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent nation. Aung San was appointed War Minister. The war turns, the Axis in Europe begin to lose, and he becomes skeptical of Japanese promises of independence for Burma and of Japan's ability to win the war.
    . The British Government had announced its intention to grant self-government to Burma within the British Commonwealth. General Aung San met with Lord Mountbatten in Ceylon (Siri Lanka) in September 1945 to solidify the agreement.
    . On 27 January 1947, Aung San and the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, signed an agreement in London guaranteeing Burma's independence within a year; Aung San had been responsible for its negotiation.
    . On 19 July 1947, a gang of armed paramilitaries of the former Prime Minister broke into the Secretariat building in downtown Rangoon during a meeting of the Executive Council and assassinated Aung San and six of his cabinet ministers.
    . At the trial that followed, a number of middle-ranking British army officers were implicated in the plot; they also were tried and imprisoned. Several British officers had supplied weapons to the assassins. Perhaps Britain did not want Burma to become independent?

    Suggested Activities:
    . Students can research the consequences of an independent Burma without a
    democratic leader. Draw information from at least three sources and cite them.

    Hints:
    . Ethic groups became stronger, fighting for their independence.
    . Russia sold arms and weapons to the Burmese military government so they could suppress conflicts with ethnic groups.
    . Military leaders became corrupt with unlimited powers. They formed joint ventures with Chinese officials who eventually took over Burma's wealth: ruby mines, gold, ivory, oil, forests. Over the years, China stripped Burma of its wealth.
    . China has used factories in Myanmar to produce chemical weapons in secret. China has used these weapons against their Muslim population as Myanmar does against their belligerent ethnic groups.

    2. GEOGRAPHY:
    a. The Golden Land:
    . The film opens with an idyllic scene and a background of gentle, oriental music. General Aung San tells his 2-year-old-daughter about their country as it was before the arrival of the British – a place of beauty, wilderness, and peace. He calls it "Golden Land" because of the diversity and value of the natural life in Burma. It also refers to the fact that gold is their most loved metal, used in pagodas, monasteries, etc.

    Suggested Activities:
    . Students can research the basic elements of Burma's geography. What is the total area of the country? The population? What is the topography like? Where are mountains, hills, and valleys located? How much of the surface area is water? What is the climate like? Who are its neighbors? What is the capital? Groups can split these questions and make a poster presenting their findings to share with the class.
    . Students can label an empty map with topographical elements.
    . Students can discuss why they think Burma is called the Golden Land.

    Hints:
    Capital: Naypyidaw (since 2005)
    Largest City: Yangon (since 2005, previously known as Rangoon)
    Population (2010): 60,280,000 people
    Area: 676,578 km2 (3.53% water)
    Land is rimmed in the north, east, and west by mountain ranges forming a giant
    horseshoe. Enclosed within the mountain barriers are the flat lands of
    Ayeyarwaddy, Chindwin and Sittaung River valleys, where most of the
    country's agricultural land and population are concentrated.
    Country bordering Myanmar in the north is China; in the south is Thailand; in the east are China, Laos, and Thailand; in the west are India and Bangladesh.

    b. Southeast Asia:
    . India's presence was felt strongly when Burma and India were part of the British
    Empire. The British delegated soldiers from India to enforce law and order in Burma because there were not enough British soldiers to take charge. The British were not comfortable in Burma due to the hot and humid weather. On the other hand, the Indians shared a comparable climate. The Burmese were not happy with Indian enforcers. After the Burmese received independence from the U.K., the military junta under General Ne Win, forced many of the Indians who were living in Myanmar, to return to India. Yet, there are still some Indians who have remained in Myanmar. They are Muslim, from Bangladesh, and are part of the persecuted group, the Rohingyas.
    . The Chinese presence in Myanmar is very strong. They represent a wealthy class who are engaged in business with neighboring mainland China. They have created many joint ventures with the military and trade agreements. Oil and gas pipelines are presently being erected from the Bay of Bengal to the border with China. The "Road to Mandalay" is owned by the Chinese. They receive tolls from trucks and cars; they maintain the road; they have young Chinese workers, female teenagers and male youngsters to maintain the road and facilitate Chinese trucks shipping teak wood and teak trees, bamboo, fruits as strawberries, pineapples, watermelons, vegetables and products from the ruby, sapphire, jade, gold, and silver mines and pearls and coral. When the U.S., United Nations and European countries placed embargos and sanctions on Burma for their lack of Human Rights, the Chinese stepped in as uncontested business partners. They have remained.
    . One of Michael's concerns for Suu is that the international community would never know of her struggles in Burma; her anonymity was a danger to her life and her fame after the Nobel Prize protected her. This relative invisibility of Burma in the international community came as a result of decades of the government policy of isolationism. Furthermore, this choice to retreat from deep international relations, agreements, and trade was largely unchallenged by the international community; they had little interest in Burma that had become a very poor country.

    Suggested Activities:
    . Students can look at a map of Burma and its neighbors. Think about its location strategically. What potential do you see for agreements, trade, and other international interactions? How could a rich and technologically advanced Burma benefit the whole of Southeast Asia?
    . Students can research what recent attempts have been made to unite Southeast Asia. Which countries have shown the most interest in Burma for geopolitical reasons and how?

    Hints:
    . Burma has the power to unite S.E. Asia. It is located between China and India, and so may act as a conduit of trade and cooperation between the two powerful countries.
    . India's landlocked northeast, separated by Bangladesh from the rest of the country, is also in a position to benefit from a connection to the outside via a stable and strong Myanmar.
    . The Chinese are constructing pipelines for oil and natural gas transport, from Africa and Burma-dominated Bay of Bengal across Burma and into China, thus avoiding the Strait of Malacca and saving time and money. The pipelines will also benefit Myanmar, providing a route to export their plentiful reserves of natural gas.
    . India is building an energy terminal to carry resources at Sittwe, along Myanmar's coast. This pipeline will potentially connect Burma, Bangladesh, and India, in one fluid, organic continuum.
    . The important fact here is that both India and China, while pursuing personal interests in Burma, may in the process boost Burma as well.
    . China's Geopolitical Interest: China has long benefited from Myanmar's abundance of resources (oil, natural gas, coal, zinc, copper, timber, etc.); after the isolation of Myanmar following the 1962 coup, China remained a significant player in Myanmar because of its need for its resources.
    . The remarkable point is that interests in the region generally coincide; while China may yet benefit from ethnic strife in Myanmar, in the long run, Myanmar's economic development is good for China, India, and the rest of Southeast Asia. The economic and commercial potential may be reason for regional cooperation.

    3. ECONOMICS:
    a. Relationship with China:
    Burma's relationship with its powerful neighbor, China, has been very deep. China provides Burma with extensive military and economic aid while exploiting the country's natural resources.

    Suggested Activities:
    . Divide students into three groups. Each group researches one of the three topics listed underneath with sample questions and makes a poster with their findings. Students then present their poster and teach the class about their topic.
    . Background: How did this relationship between Burma and China develop? When did it develop, and why was it so strong?
    . Trade and Commerce: What resources are traded? Does trade benefit one country more than the other or is it mutually beneficial? Who else does Burma trade with?
    . Strategic relations: What geographical influence does access to Burma give China? What military tools are traded?

    Hints:
    . Background: Burma was the first non-communist country to recognize the People's Republic of China after its foundation in 1959; they established diplomatic relations a year later. Relations began to improve even more in the 1970's and in 1988 they signed a major trade agreement that also started military trade.
    . Trade: Bilateral trade with China is over $1.4 billion. China's imports are generally natural resources like wood, oil, coal, zinc, copper, rubber, etc. China is helping Burma with its infrastructure as well as dams, roads, bridges, and ports.
    . Strategic: China supplies Burma with military tools such as jet fighters, naval vessels, and armored vehicles. Access to Burma gives China considerable power, with access to the strategic Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the rest of Southeast Asia.
    . Myanmar's business partners are members of the 10 ASEAN member nations.
    . Japan has been a leading trade partner with Myanmar for many years. Myanmar owes Japan over 500 billion yen, or more than $6 billion, from past loans. As of March 2012, Prime Minister Noda of Japan and President U Thein Sein met in Tokyo with other leaders from the five nations of the Mekong River region, and Japan assure Myanmar that they would take steps to forgive half of the debt from past loans. Japan assured that they would resume full-fledged development aid to Myanmar as a way to support the country's democratic and economic reforms.

    Suggested Activities:
    . Students can research the UN's non-interference policy and discuss whether the body should be given more power and responsibility to interfere against human rights violations under the Military. Why did Suu and Michael consider international attention so even if they knew other countries couldn't interfere directly? What did they do in the film to get international attention
    . Students can research what big moves the U.N. and the E.U. have made. Are these significant or just token gestures?

    Hints:
    . The U.S. was the first to restore diplomatic relations with Burma in 2010. The U.S. used their influence to get Myanmar elected as the President of the ASEAN nations in 2014, to encourage their move toward democracy and economic growth.
    . Other nations, particularly those in close geographic proximity such as Thailand, India, and Vietnam, urged the U.N. to get more involved with its support in developing the education and health sectors, reducing poverty, and improving the general well-being of the population, and to continue discussions with the government, encouraging it at every turn to "broaden political space and address socio-economic conditions."
    . United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) has been very active in small villages in building medical clinics, hospitals and schools. Prior to 2010, these remote and isolated towns had no elementary or middle school. Today, the U.S. has offered grants for Education and there is an increased activity in school construction and attendance as well as computer literacy. Local government is encouraging students to finish middle school and then they are giving scholarships for eligible students to go to the nearest city for high school and college.
    . As of Spring 2012, UNDP will have a principal office in Nepadaw and Yagon to co-ordinate international aid to Myanmar. In addition, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank will widen their economic support in Banking, credit, investment and funding.
    . The European Union also welcomed the reforms taking place and has announced plans to further assist the country and make sure the changes are irreversible. The E.U. is deeply committed with financial assistance. It announced plans to help reduce poverty, all the while encouraging big players like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to also get engaged.
    . The E.U. and U.N. have also declared its commitment to helping ethnic groups in their struggles for peace.

    4. CIVICS, CITIZENSHIP AND GOVERNMENT:
    a. National League for Democracy:
    . Aung San Suu Kyi's party, National League for Democracy, NLD, was founded in 1988, in the aftermath of the 8888 Uprising and Suu is the President of the Party. In 1990, the NLD won a majority in Parliament but the government refused to recognize the result and placed Suu under house arrest.
    . In 2012, the NLD party won 43 of the possible 45 seats open for election to Parliament. In 2015, she won overwhelmingly and has moved her party to rule Parliament and work to change the Constitution that had been established by the Military that opposes her from becoming the actual President. However, as of 2015, she and her party elect the President who will be a "proxy" leader under her. As of 2015, the Constitution states that 25% of the 664 seats in Parliament are occupied by the Military. To ratify the Constitution, 75% of Parliament members are needed to vote, which she has due to her victory in 2015. For Suu Yi to become President, a change in the Constitution is needed.

    Suggested Activities:
    . Students can research the NLD party platform, party symbol, and anything else they think would be significant.

    Hints:
    • NLD Party platform:
    . Non-violent movement toward democracy
    . Human rights including freedom of speech
    . Rule of law
    . Release of political prisoners
    . Freedom of Press
    . Independence of the judiciary
    . Increased social benefits

    b. Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic;
    . When Burma first gained independence in 1948, the British left it with a system similar to their own in place: Burma had a president (as opposed to the UK's head of state, the Queen) and a prime minister (head of government) and a bicameral legislature. But despite this democratic form of structure, the Military took over and ruled as a dictatorship until 2015.
    . When Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, the president was Thien Sein, who is a product of Burmese Military for he has been educated as a lawyer at the Military's School of Law. Myanmar's Constitution states that in order to be the President, that person has to come from the military elite.
    . For most of his career he was a loyal enforcer in one of the world's most brutal military regimes. But since March 30, 2011, when he was elected president of Myanmar, U Thein Sein has been leading his from military dictatorship to democracy that they finally achieved in 2015.
    . There are no easy and clear reasons why Mr. Thein Sein, had decided to shake up one of Asia's poorest and most isolated countries. Some people have called him Myanmar's Mikhail Gorbachev. The question still remains what will be Myanmar's relationship with the military that still controls some sections of the government like police, security, and lucrative economic relationships with China.
    . President Sein did release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
    . In 2014, Myanmar took on the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a tribute of confidence to President U Thein Sein. And encouragement to Myanmar to develop economically with their South East neighbors.

    Suggested Activities:
    . What is "freedom of the press"? Students can research new developments related to Myanmar's government that allow journalists freedom of press.

    c. Parliament:
    . There are 664 seats in Myanmar's Parliament that meets in the capital, Naypidaw. There is a very strict composition of who can occupy these seats.
    . To amend the Constitution, 75% of the houses need to approve a law before it passes. As of the 2015 elections, the Lady's party has this. Also the Constitution states that: the President has to come "from the Military," and cannot have been married to a foreigner or have foreigners in the family. This seems to have been written specifically to exclude the Lady from any chance to be elected President. Unless, if she can change the Constitution?

    d. Ethnic Groups and Conflicts:
    . There are 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar.
    . Ethnic divisions and tension began during British colonialism, and escalated after independence in 1948. Further oppressive policies by the military regime starting in 1962 intensified conflicts. One of the earliest and largest insurgencies was by the Karen National Union (KNU), who wanted large parts of lower Burma to become independent. The situation then worsened when Buddhism became the official religion, leaving in question the rights of many Muslim and Christian ethnic groups (Chin, Kayan, Pao, Kachin, Rohningya). Many ethnic minorities then broke out in rebellion in the 1960's after the central government refused to consider a federal government. In 2013-2014, escalation of tribal war was targeted against the Muslim group, Rohingyas, who are Muslims and have been called by the U.N. as the group that has been persecuted the most in the world.
    . There is continued fighting in resource-rich Northern Myanmar against the Kachin group.
  •  

    PLEASE VISIT:

    Vialogues from Columbia University

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