Case #1685.0

Aung San Suu Kyi: "Icon of Hope" in Burma (A)

Publication Date: April 01, 2003
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Aung San Suu Kyi, who would win the Nobel Peace Prize and galvanize world attention on the brutal military rulers of Burma, was, until 1988, an expatriate for much of her life, with largely historical and intellectual connections to the country of her birth. She was the daughter of Aung San, Burma's "father of independence", assassinated in 1947, and herself the author of a history of the southeast Asian country. This case tells the dramatic story of her transformation from her role as a writer and mother, living in Oxford, England, to that of a political leader who electrified throngs in Rangoon (Burma's capital) and sacrificed much of what she held dear as she became a symbol of resistance to the Burmese military and was forced to live under house arrest. This case is intended to provide a vehicle for discussion of the elements which allow a leader to emerge and to gain deep, emotional support from the public. Aung San Suu Kyi's personal, historical status--being her father's daughter--combined with a series of events that thrust her into the public eye (starting with her return to Burma simply to be at the bedside of her dying mother) and set the stage for her dramatic role. At the same time, the case raises the question of what factors, specifically--from personal characteristics to tactical decisions--made her effective. It raises, too, the ethical question of whether, or how, she should have reached some entente with the military rulers of Burma, as she sought to convert symbolic impact to real political change. See also Part B (1686.0). This case includes a 5-minute video companion that shows Suu Kyi’s rise as a charismatic leader following her return to Myanmar (1988-1996) as well as her new chapter as political leader after release from house arrest (2010-2012).

Learning Objective:
This case is intended to provide a vehicle for the discussion of charismatic leadership. 

Please note: the video portion of this case is included in the teaching plan and is intended for instructors to use in class. Here is more information on how to access teaching plans

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Esther Scott
Video Producer:
Patricia Garcia-Rios
Faculty Lead:
Hannah Riley Bowles
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Asia, Burma