Why Suu Kyi still loves Burma's army

One of her Desert Island Discs? A Tom Jones song she's never heard

Years of house arrest held no fear for Aung San Suu Kyi, thanks to an authoritarian mother who toughened her up. And she remains "fond" of the Burmese military despite the atrocities it committed. "The truth is that I am very fond of the army because I always thought of it as my father's army," she says.

Ms Suu Kyi was only two when her father, General Aung San, the leader of Burma's struggle for independence, was assassinated in 1947. Speaking at her home in the Burmese capital, Naypyitaw, where two paintings of her father are on the wall, she says: "My father is my first love and my best love."

Reminded of atrocities such as torture, child soldiers and rape committed by the Burmese military, she admits: "It's terrible what they've done and I don't like what they've done at all, but if you love somebody I think you love her or him in spite of and not because of."

She explains how she was taught that her father "was the father of the army and that all soldiers were his sons and that therefore they were part of my family". Speaking on today's Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, Ms Suu Kyi, 67, adds: "You  always look forward to a time  when they will be able to redeem themselves."

It emerged this month that her party, the National League for Democracy, had accepted donations from figures connected to the Burmese military. But Ms Suu Kyi "didn't come into politics to be popular" and says she still has ambitions. "I would like to be president ... If you are the leader of a party then you want to get government power in your hands."

She has waited a lifetime to take the power that her father could have held, leaving Burma in the 1960s and studying at Oxford University before settling down with her husband, the academic Michael Aris, and bringing up their two boys. "I never thought that domesticity was my whole life," she says, and had warned her husband on the eve of their wedding "that my country would always come first".

In 1988, her life changed completely. Returning to Burma to visit her sick mother, she realised the political unrest would be "a life-changing situation for the country as a whole".

A figurehead for protesters calling for democratic reform, she was placed under house arrest in 1989 and spent most of the following two decades in confinement. Yet she adjusted "very quickly" and "didn't feel it a burden at all", realising she was "perfectly capable of living alone".

Her mother's tough love had prepared her for what was ahead. "I thought at times she was far too strict, but when I was in a position of having to cope with things such as prison, I was very grateful to her for having brought me up in such a disciplined way. I think she recognised that I tended to be a bit soft and she made sure that I wouldn't stay that way."

Freed from house arrest in 2010, she was elected to parliament last year. Referring to the past, she says: "I'm not terribly fond of melodrama. I think that when people have chosen a certain path they should walk it with satisfaction and not try to make it appear as a tremendous sacrifice."

During the interview, she chooses music "that reminds me of people who are important to me". One track, Pachelbel's Canon, represents "tranquillity and resilience". And, for the first time in the programme's history, a guest admits not having heard one of their chosen tracks, with Ms Suu Kyi confessing she doesn't know "The Green, Green, Grass of Home" by Tom Jones. After it's played, she says: "I like it. There's nothing wrong with loving one's home and family and feeling sentimental about it."

As for Burma's future, she says: "I do not think we can say that we have started the genuine process of democratisation yet, but we now have the opportunity to start."

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11.15am and Friday at 9am

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing