Aung San Suu Kyi to reveal her Desert Island Discs

Face of Burma's democratic opposition records edition of BBC Radio 4 castaway music show

The Burmese opposition leader and pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi is to appear on Desert Island Discs on Sunday. .

Such was the excitement of Kirsty Young, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 show, that she forgot to ask the Nobel laureate which of her eight music choices she would save from the waves. Fortunately, Young was reminded by a gesticulating producer.

Young tells the latest issue of Radio Times: "The Queen … is, perhaps, the only comparable guest on the DID wish list .

"The experience was so intense and had such a surreal quality about it that I forgot to ask her which of the eight tracks she would save."

Young, who had travelled to Aung San Suu Kyi's home, in Naypyitaw in Burma, to record the programme, was saved by Nick Springate, a senior world affairs producer.

"Nick frantically signalled to me by holding up a single finger," she said. "My mind was busy doing cartwheels of joy."

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in 2010 after being confined for 15 of the previous 21 years, began her Nobel lecture last year by mentioning the Radio 4 show, remembering how she used to listen to it with her son Alexander at Oxford.

Young remembered how she had "punched the air" when she heard the reference to Desert Island Discs. Six months of negotiation began, with the Radio 4 controller, Gwyneth Williams, sending a personal note to Aung San Suu Kyi asking her to appear on the programme.

"The interview fell through two or three times, and it wasn't until I was sitting opposite her with a microphone that I actually believed it was going to happen," said Young.

"I'd been swotting for this interview like I was doing an exam. Up until the point when she walked in the room and sat down, I could not allow myself to believe that it was happening."

Young said Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson and general secretary of Burma's National League for Democracy, had spoken "very poignantly of the torment she went through".

"It was emotional torture for her but she refuses to self-aggrandise, and plays down her personal suffering.

"There are some people who rise above the throng. She's been through hell and back, and yet she remains a woman of humour, intellect and dignity. She's a showstopper."

Young said most of Aung San Suu Kyi's music choices on the programme were "for family reasons: connections to her childhood, to her own children".

The Burmese opposition leader was "very tiny, very slim and very delicate", Young said. "But despite her size, she has amazing stature and real grace.

"When we arrived, we were welcomed by her assistant and set up the recording equipment," she added.

"About 30 minutes later, she joined us. She's very, very attentive, and with no sense of grandiosity.

"This woman has travelled through the fire of notoriety and come out the other side intact. That takes great strength. She has, by her own admission, a steely determination and, like all politicians, a sliver of ice in her heart."


John Plunkett

The GuardianTramp

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