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Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs of Myanmar, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly's 71st session in 2016. (Photo: United Nations/Cia Pak)

Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs of Myanmar, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly's 71st session in 2016. (Photo: United Nations/Cia Pak)

Suu Kyi and Trump Have a Lot in Common—Offices They Held and Their Treatment of People

However, one significant difference is Suu Kyi is the recipient of something Trump wanted more than almost anything else in the world—the Nobel Peace Prize.

Christopher Brauchli

"If wishes were horses,
Beggars might ride."
—John Ray, English Proverbs

They have a lot in common—the offices they once held, and their treatment of people. There is only one thing they do not have in common and it's what he wanted more than almost anything in the world. Here is what they have in common. 

She will be out of office for at least a year, having been removed from office by a military coup. He was removed from office as a result of an election in which votes were stolen from him and given to President Joe Biden by poll workers and other corrupt officials. Those people, he and his advisers would tell you, were the equivalent of the Myanmar military removing Aung San Suu Kyi from office for one year. 

Unlike former President Donald Trump, Suu Kyi enjoyed a distinguished career before events of 2017 took place. When she returned to Myanmar from England in 1988, she was placed under house arrest and kept there for 15 years becoming a global symbol for democracy. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Following her release from house arrest in 2010, she became an internationally recognized symbol of the coming of democracy to Myanmar. In 2012 she was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal. During a visit to Myanmar in 2012, President Barack Obama described her as "an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people, not just in this country but all around the world." In 2015 such accolades clearly distinguished her from Trump upon whom no one would shower such accolades. 

In the 2015 election in Myanmar, the National League for Democracy, of which Suu Kyi was a member, gained a parliamentary majority and Suu Kyi became the state counsellor, the equivalent of prime minister. The Rohingya and other observers thought that with her ascendance into power they would be treated as rightful citizens. They were to be disappointed. 

Suu Kyi and Trump have more in common than their removal from office. They both, to the dismay of the world and their own citizens, treated the unwanted in similar fashion. In the case of Suu Kyi, it was approving the military's treatment of the Rohingya Muslims who have lived in Myanmar for generations. In the case of Trump it was the treatment of immigrants seeking to enter the United States and establish lives here. 

In the case of Trump, families seeking asylum in the United States without permission were forcibly rendered asunder. Undocumented asylum-seekers were imprisoned. Accompanying children under the age of 18 were given to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where they were shipped to assorted venues for eventual resettlement. As of this writing the parents of 628 migrant children separated from their families due to Trump administration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border between 2017 and 2018 have still not been located. Things were even worse in Suu Kyi's Myanmar. 

In a government-sponsored military action in 2017, more than a thousand Rohingyans were killed or raped, or burned to death by the military. More than a million Rohingya were driven from their homes and now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh. U.N. investigators said the military operations had "genocidal intent." Nonetheless, as those atrocities were taking place, Suu Kyi defended the actions of the military saying, "the military's actions were an appropriate response to a Rohingya militia uprising," and describing the generals who were accused of genocide as "quite sweet."

Both Trump and Suu Kyi will always be remembered for their treatment of their fellow human beings during their time in power. There is, however, one significant difference between Suu Kyi and Trump, and it is a difference that will forever trouble Trump. 

Whenever people think of Suu Kyi, they will also remember that Suu Kyi is the recipient of something Trump wanted more than almost anything else in the world—the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump made no secret of his desire for that. 

In a self-aggrandizing moment at a campaign rally in January of the last year of his presidency, he complained about the fact that Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. As Trump explained in his typically succinct style: "I'm going to tell you about the Nobel Peace Prize. I'll tell you about that. I made a deal. I saved a country, and I just heard that the head of the country is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the country. I said: 'What, did I have something to do with it?' Yeah, but you know, that's the way it is... I saved a big war, I've saved a couple of them."

Mr. Abiy was awarded the prize on October 11, 2019 and gave his acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2019. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump both congratulated Mr. Abiy on receiving the award. As we were to learn after the 2020 presidential election, when Trump loses, he does not congratulate the winner. Mr. Abiy never heard from Trump. 

As noted at the outset, Trump and Suu Kyi will be remembered for some of the same reasons. But to his ever-lasting distress, Trump will never be remembered for having received the Nobel Peace Prize. Pity that.


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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com.

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