Chrysler decides to stand with Suu Kyi

December 14, 2009

On December 3, 2009, Chrysler launched a major new television ad dedicated to human rights, democracy champion and Nobel Laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a prisoner of conscience imprisoned in Myanmar for the last 14 of 20 years. While most see it as a brand new era in Chrysler’s image, others either applaud its efforts in highlighting the inspirational message connoted with her image, or they seem to resent the ad’s choice of hero, arguing that it does not seem to resonate with the average American television viewer – perhaps true.  However, for Amnesty International activists and others concerned with the state of human rights in Myanmar, the sentiment was certainly appreciated.

Just last month, hundreds of Amnesty International activists throughout the U.S. Northeast region gathered in Boston to launch our “I Stand with Aung San Suu Kyi” campaign to call for her immediate and unconditional release.  Amnesty activists have access to poster images of Aung San Suu Kyi featured with some of Myanmar’s additional 2,100 political prisoners.  Our activists have taken pictures with poster-size images of Aung San Suu Kyi in front of local and national monuments and other places of interest in a symbolic effort to “stand with Suu Kyi”.

Since the founding of Amnesty International nearly five decades ago, Amnesty International has lobbied for the successful release of over 40,000 prisoners of conscience.  Even in Myanmar, a state frequented to violate the human rights of its citizens, Amnesty International has successfully secured the release of one out of every two prisoners it advocates on behalf of.  Of course, the case of Aung San Suu Kyi is unique given her role (or lack thereof) in Myanmar’s political landscape.

In the global choir advocating for her release, it will continue to take voices near and far, familiar and unfamiliar.  The advent of the Chrysler ad as an unfamiliar pitch is surely welcomed in this choir.  Of course, it is unlikely that the ad alone with directly lead to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Ultimately, it will take precise actions from both the Myanmar authorities and the international community in actualizing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s political prisoners ahead of the scheduled 2010 national elections.

However, as one YouTube user commented, “any message that spreads the word of Aung Sang Suu Kyi is fine with me. I hope this will inspire a few google searches.”  Let’s hope.

This post was contributed by Anil P. Raj, Myanmar country specialist.