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Movie Assignment: The Lady (2011)

Question: Why is the film is about democracy and human rights?

The Lady is a film that tells about Aung San Suu Kyi, a Pro-Democracy activist and
her story of leading her country to democracy. It also tells us about the process of
democratization of Burma and how the Burmese people face the challenges that come in the
fight for democracy and human rights. The democratisation happens in this film can be
separates into two parts. First and for most, I will give some definitions of the democracy and
human rights. Then, I will try to explain about the process of democratisation and human
rights according to this film.

Definition of democracy and human rights

In definition, democracy came from the Greek word demos which mean people and
Rummel (n. d.) explains that Aristotle define democracy as the rule by the people. This mean
that all the citizens in the country are responsible in managing their own country whether by
electing a representative person or a group of people to rule them or by giving their thoughts
and opinions in the making of their policies.
Besides that, human rights can be define as the principles of making choices that
everyone individually has in living their lives.
Human rights are norms that help to protect all people everywhere from
severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the
right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime,
the right not to be tortured, and the right to engage in political activity. These
rights exist in morality and in law at the national and international levels.
(Nickel, 2014).
According to the paragraph above, it explains that human rights encompasses all activities
that the people does daily. Its a principle that gave any individual the freedom to live their
lives while respecting others basic rights.

The Process of Democratisation

The democratisation shown in this film can be explained from the pre-democracy period (the
nondemocratic form of government) to the nearly post-democracy period.


democratisation happens, government in most countries in the world were ruled by an

authoritarian government.
Historically, nondemocratic regimes have taken a wide variety of forms. The
regimes democratized in the first wave were generally absolute monarchies,
lingering feudal aristocracies, and the successor states to continental empires.
Those democratized in the second wave had been fascist states, colonies, and
personalistic military dictatorships and often had some previous democratic
experience. The regimes that moved to and toward democracy in the third
wave generally fell into three groups: one-party systems, military regimes, and
personal dictatorships.
personal dictatorships were a third, more diverse group of nondemocratic
systems. The distinguishing characteristic of a personal dictatorship is that the
individual leader is the source of authority and that power depends on access
to, closeness to, dependence on, and support from the leader
(Huntington, 1991).
Text above tells about the type of governments before the democratisation process happens to
the country. In this cases, the film shows the situation of the nondemocratic form of
government in Burma is under the authoritarian rule of junta military government. The
Burmese government being led by a dictatorship of General Ne Win and all the authority
powers conducted such as the authority conducted by the military groups wearing the red
scarf were exercised upon the instructions from the general himself. Besides that, General Ne
Win also took total control when he send one of his men to follow Suu Kyi as soon after Suu
Kyi arrives at the airport from Oxford to know her reasons coming to Burma. He also
conducted the Suu Kyis house arrestment after he knows she is leading a democracy
movements that could overthrow his government. The government of Burma also control the
communication of the country as shown in the film when they controls the electrical power of
Suu Kyis house and cutting the telephone lines. They had limited the communication of Suu
Kyi to the outside world and taken total control of Suu Kyis life in the arrestment. The
dictatorship of General Ne Win also shown when he revoke the visa of Dr. Michael Aris, a

English author and Suu Kyis husband, the first time he met his wife in Burma. In his second
visits, Michael had the military waiting for his arrival at the airport to tell him in this visit, he
must follows the law conducted to his wife and cannot make any contact to the British
Embassy or other political person.
Then, during the transitional period from the authoritarian government to democracy,
the democratisation process were held by the democratic movement from many groups of
In terms of their attitudes toward democratization, the crucial participants
in the processes were standpatters, liberal reformers, and democratic
reformers in the governing coalition, and democratic moderates and
revolutionary extremists in the opposition
The three crucial interactions in democratization processes were those
between government and opposition, between reformers and standpatters in
the governing coalition, and between moderates and extremists in the
opposition. In all transitions, these three central interactions played some
(Huntington, 1991).
According to the text above, these interactions were shown in the film when the Rangoon
Universitys students held an assembly to support democratisation outside the hospital where
Suu Kyis mom being treated were being attacked by the red scarf military groups. In this
interaction, according to what Samuel Huntington (1991) said in his book, the students played
the role of the reformers, whereby the red scarf armies played as the standpatters of the
current government. Other interactions shown in the film are when six of the Rangoon
Universitys professors asking Aung San Suu Kyi to be the leading figure in promoting
democracy to the people of Burma and when Suu Kyi , her family and her supporters held the
assembly to tell the people about the democratisation that they will encounter. This kind of
groups are the democratic reformers and the oppositions to the dictatorship government of
Burma during the transitional period.
After that, the transformation processes are going to take place in the democratisation

In transformations, those in power in the authoritarian regime take the lead

and play the decisive role in ending that regime and changing it into a
democratic system. The line between transformations and transplacements is
fuzzy, and some cases might be legitimately classified in either category
(Huntington, 1991).
In this cases, the film shows that the transformation of the current government are going to
take place when the general election are being held. But, the current dictatorship of General
Ne Win cannot admit their defeat to the National League for Democracy party led by Suu Kyi
and therefore they ruled out the elections verdict to avoid Suu Kyis ascendancy to be Prime
Minister of Burma. The government keep the detainment of Suu Kyi and pressuring her by
cutting her connection to her family and outside world. Over the time, the people of Burma
slowly getting their consciousness about democracy and after several years of Suu Kyis
crusade for democracy in Burma, in the year 2007, the people of Burma leading by the Dalai
Lama monks, rallying up a parade to support democracy and marching toward Suu Kyis
house to meet their political figure.
The Infringement of Human Rights
The infringement of the basic human rights also shown in this film. Below are the lists of
article that are subjected to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by United
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on
the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or
territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-selfgoverning or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall
be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to
equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any
discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to
such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national
tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the
constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
(United Nations, The universal declaration of human rights: article 1-9., n. d.).
The film shows that the government of Burma under the dictatorship of General Ne Win were
already broke the first article when they keep their tracks on every Suu Kyis movements in
the country from the moment she arrives at the airport until the detainment. Article 2 were
broke when the Burmese government limiting the students from holding and attending the
democracy assembly. The dictatorship also limits the people of Burma from giving opinion
on politics and the government by giving the power to execute the law of arresting and killing
the citizen to the red scarf armies.
Besides that, the Burmese government shown in this film also trespass the article 3, 4
and 5 when they arrested some participants from Suu Kyis speech and took them to the
border of the country as forced labours and slaves carrying drugs and weapons and some of
them also forced to walk off the minefield and let them die because of the explosions.
Furthermore, the film also shows how the government of Burma make the house
arrest of Suu Kyis to control her from making her crusade of democracy toward the Burmese
people. They had detained her for almost 15 from her 21 years living in Burma, keeping her
from her fighting for democracy of the government, and neglecting her basic human rights by

detaining her without any public hearing being held to bring justice to her. This situation had
already broken the article 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the declarations and the Burmese government could
be subjected to the universal laws of basic human rights.
In conclusion, democracy in Burma are still being fought by Aung San Suu Kyi and her
supporters until this present day. The movements are getting stronger day by day since the
release of Suu Kyi from the detainment on November 2010. The Burmese crusade for
democracy and human rights were a little bit closer and closer to its success every day.
Therefore, the works toward the democratisation and achieving democracy and basic human
rights have been done consistently and excessively by the people of Burma till the recent

Huntington, S. (1991). The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. USA:
University of Oklahoma Press.
Nickel, J. (2014). Human rights. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Rummel, R. J. (n. d.). Democratization. Retrieved from
United Nations. (n. d.). The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from