Case #1986.3

Aung San Suu Kyi, Seizing the Moment: Soaring Hopes & Tough Constraints in Myanmar's Unfolding Democracy (Abridged)

Publication Date: October 24, 2018
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This 9-page version of Seizing the Moment primarily differs from the original in omitting a 4-page section that describes the early, confusing stages of Myanmar’s democratization process. Like the original, this leadership case is set in the spring of 2016 and gives students the chance to grapple with the difficult challenges confronting Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, after a rapid turn of fortune took her, over a period of six years, from longtime prisoner of conscience to civilian head of state in Myanmar.  The case describes the nature of Suu KyI’s political role in Myanmar during her many years of house arrest and then shows how that role shifted in the years following her release.  With freedom and an increase in formal power came new dilemmas—for example, whether to take an oath to a problematic Constitution, how to manage her star power vis-à-vis Myanmar President Thein Sein, and how to address intercommunal violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, an unpopular ethnic minority in Rakhine state. (See HKS case Fallen Idol? Aung San Suu Kyi & the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis (2139.0) for a more detailed treatment of this last issue, which devolved into a desperate humanitarian catastrophe in August and September of 2017. Another two-part HKS case, Icon of Hope A/B (1685.0, 1686.0), focuses on Suu Kyi’s early adult life and transformation from an expatriate living a quiet life in Oxford, England to an opposition leader and icon for democracy and human rights.)

Two 3-5-minute video companion pieces (Video A: “Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘Icon of Hope’” and Video B: “Aung San Suu Kyi, Seizing the Moment”) show, respectively, Suu Kyi’s rise as a charismatic leader following her return to Myanmar (1988-2012) and second, her new chapter as a political leader in a fledgling democracy after her release from house arrest (2010-2012).

Learning Objective:
Suu Kyi’s changing role in Myanmar during the six years discussed in the case—from opposition leader under house arrest to opposition leader in parliament to civilian head of state—provides an apt vehicle for contrasting formal and informal power. Appropriate for leadership and moral leadership courses, the materials invite a rich discussion about how Suu Kyi and her political party, the National League for Democracy, might understand, and adjust for, their changing role at home and abroad. 

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

Other Details

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