Suu Kyi Scores Spot on Time’s Top 100 List

By Nyein Nyein 19 April 2013

Time magazine has once again included Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on its list of the world’s 100 most influential people this year.

It is the fourth time the Burmese democracy icon has earned a spot on the annual list, which was released on Thursday.

The magazine, which also honored Suu Kyi on its Top 100 list in 2004, 2008 and 2011, praised the opposition leader for her persistent commitment to reform as her country opens up after nearly half a century of military rule.

“Suu Kyi is a political leader with decisions to make in a fragile political environment,” former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote of the National League for Democracy co-founder in a description for the magazine. “Her bravery in defying—and defeating—repression gives hope to all who cherish liberty.”

Activist-turned-parliamentarian Suu Kyi also received 61 percent of the total vote for
Time’s most influential person of the decade, in an online poll that closed on Wednesday.

Commemorating the 10th edition of the Time 100, which annually lists the world’s most influential people, the magazine opened the online poll to voters earlier this month, starting with a bracket of 16 past honorees from four categories: politics, entertainment, technology and “icons.”

Suu Kyi beat out pop star Lady Gaga in a head-to-head, having defeated Google co-founder Larry Page, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to reach the final.

Her victory in the online poll came despite extremely low Internet penetration in Burma, where about 1 percent of the country’s 60 million population has access to the Web.

Still, with the freedom to vote multiple times, Burmese netizens at home and abroad voted by clicking on an image of Suu Kyi, showing their admiration for the democracy icon and putting their country back in the international spotlight.

“We clicked our mouse frequently because it [Time magazine] allowed the option to ‘vote again,’ so I clicked over 30 times,” said Burmese voter Oakkar Ko Ko.

He added: “We have to do this because Lady Gaga has millions of fans, while there are just over 200,000 [mobile] Internet users in all of Burma.”

Lady Gaga has more than 35 million followers on Twitter and thousands of fans on her official website, and her supporters were surprised by the poll results, with many leaving comments on her website saying they had never heard of Suu Kyi before.

This is not the first time that Burmese netizens have shown a flare for online voting since the country’s political landscape opened after the 2010 elections and Internet filters were lifted.

In October last year, when Burmese beauty queen Nang Khin Zay Yar became the first from her country in five decades to contest an international pageant by making a bid for the Miss International title in Japan, she won the People’s Choice Award and Miss Internet Award thanks to her online Burmese fans.

Suu Kyi’s supporters in the Time contest voted for two days, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some shared messages on Facebook claiming they had not left their computers for both days, refusing to even take a break for sleep so they could continue voting.

Even Ye Htut, Burma’s deputy minister of information, said he voted multiple times for Suu Kyi on his Facebook page, which boasts 28,000 followers.

Others were more reserved, casting fewer votes and hoping for broad public support.

“It [Suu Kyi’s victory] is the result of public participation,” said Han Htet, a 27-year-old Rangoon resident. “I only voted twice.”

Ye Myat Thu, a computer technician from Mandalay, said he was grateful that Time allowed multiple voting.

“If Time allowed just one vote per IP address, it would be unfair for people in Burma, since we share access to the net from computers at Internet cafes.

“At the same time, it would be more satisfying to see how many [different] people voted instead of the total number of votes.”

Additional reporting by Htet Naing Zaw.