Lady liberty and the ethnic cauldron

By Kanak Mani Dixit

, by Himal Southasian

As the applause for her singular democratic struggle subsides, Aung San Suu Kyi will have to tackle the challenge of defining a viable nation-state while responding to the multiple assertions of identity and autonomy within Burma.

As Aung San Suu Kyi returns to Burma from her two-week tour of Europe, with its mix of the personal and the regal, she will have to begin grappling with the ethnic tensions that have been left festering over half a century of military rule. Shedding the ’prisoner of conscience’ mantle, she will have to take on the role of a politician in a country that was always fractious but may become fratricidal. The question is whether the politician can become a stateswoman.

While Burma continues to be run by the reformist military regime of President Thein Sein, all eyes are on Suu Kyi. The democrat, who has restricted herself thus far to human rights and rule of law, cannot now evade addressing matters of identity and autonomy. Her ultimate challenge will be to work towards restructuring the Burmese state, keeping it unified yet addressing the demands of the non-Bamar minorities which make a third of the population.

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