(Paris) OK. I admit it. I fucked up… bought into the myth… let my heart rule my head; perpetuated The Big Lie and denigrated the high journalistic standards VICE readers deserve. The fact that The New York Times and virtually every other media outfit on Earth are also guilty doesn’t matter. Here at VICE.com, we correct our mistakes; up front, above the fold.
In a dispatch from Oslo earlier this month I reported Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose hair is always adorned with flowers, does so as a tribute to her father who threaded her hair with flora when Daw Suu was only a child. Not so, she explained, when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also repeated this “fact” before a dinner in her honor.
“It’s a nice legend,” Suu Kyi admitted. “You see, I was only two when my father died. (Bogyoke Aung San, who led Burma’s fight for Independence, was assassinated in 1947.) And at that time, I had no hair! In Burma we believed if you shaved children’s hair, it grows back thick and long. And my hair was always shaved, so it’s only a myth that he placed flowers there… but I’m very touched people think he did.
“The reason why I wear flowers in my hair is actually because my mother used to do so. This was very much a Burmese tradition. But these days Burmese girls have started cutting their hair short so they no longer wear flowers. And today, they don’t know how or have great difficulty doing it. Even my personal assistant—who has short hair—doesn’t know how to help me. So I simply do it myself.”
“Zeeee Lady” arrived here on the last leg of her European tour and was received, as in Switzerland, Norway, and Britain, with honors reserved for a head of state. Even the press applauded when she appeared with President Francois Hollande at a news conference, a fact Hollande stated was “unprecedented.” Well, not really. The press also applauded Sharon Stone several years ago; after all, not every actress flashes her pussy in Technicolor. But Suu Kyi actually deserves our admiration.
During another grueling schedule of meetings with officials, NGO’s, Burmese exiles, women’s groups, and students, she continued to press for democratic reforms and said she hoped when Burma’s next general election is held in 2015, “we can all shape the destiny of our country,” meaning by then, she hopes to run for president.
With most sanctions against Rangoon now suspended, she urged foreign investment that was “transparent and inclusive.” She said abuses by Total, (the French petroleum giant) were “in the past.” Among other offenses, Total has been accused of using what amounts to slave labor while operating in Burma. President Hollande said Total has now changed its practices and “if it fails to respect the Rights of Man, Madame Sky Kyi can contact me directly.” Well, at least Hollande’s heart is in the right place.
The fact is neither Suu Kyi nor any of her local supporters have the clout nor expertise to ride herd on multi-nationals, let alone even control the well-meaning bunny huggers who have made democracy for Burma a “cause-celebre.” A senior French diplomat told me Suu Kyi has been reaching out to leading economists for practical advice but the challenge is immense.
She also urged France to support The Initiative for Financial Transparency now being debated by the European Parliament. That means any company registered with stock exchanges within the European community would have to adhere to strict accountability. Good luck getting that one passed, let alone enforced.
Still, the world needs men and women of noble ideals. In that respect Daw Suu is an inspiration. “Compromise on tactics and strategy,” she says, “but never on principles.”
After spending 24 years in Burma, 15 of them in detention or under house arrest, the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Victory tour was a smash. She again focused the world’s attention on Burma, the need to establish democratic rule, respect for human rights and the value of kindness. I, for one, never tire of hearing the importance of her message. Neither should you.