Burma’s Suu Kyi Picks Tom Jones and the Beatles for Desert Island

Suu Kyi, who was finally elected to parliament last year, did not choose Tom Jones’ rendition of “Please release me,” but rather the Welsh crooner’s “Green, green grass of home.”

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Khin Maung Win / AP

Aung San Suu Kyi, center, arrives at Rangoon International Airport on Jan. 24, 2012

In a recent appearance on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs program, Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi chose Tom Jones and the Beatles.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing her homeland’s repressive military junta, was asked what eight pieces of music, book and luxury item she would choose if marooned alone on a desert island.

(MORE: Aung San Suu Kyi: Burma’s First Lady of Freedom)

Suu Kyi admitted to asking for help from esteemed colleagues, family and friends for her choices so that she could be reminded of them during her hypothetical isolation. “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles made the list as U.K. Ambassador to Burma Andy Heyn said it foreshadowed better times ahead for the Southeast Asian nation, while John Lennon’s “Imagine” was chosen by her youngest son Kim Aris.

Suu Kyi, who was finally elected to parliament in April last year, did not choose Tom Jones’ rendition of “Please Release Me,” but rather the Welsh crooner’s “Green, Green Grass of Home.”

BBC presenter Kirsty Young traveled to Burma’s soulless new capital Naypyidaw, founded less than a decade ago by the then ruling generals, for the recording and admitted to “swotting for this interview like I was doing an exam.” Young later confessed to being so starstruck during her encounter with the Lady that she nearly forgot to ask a key question during the interview.

The hit radio show, which celebrates its 71st birthday this week, found Suu Kyi a difficult guest to tie down; it took six months of fraught negotiations before her appearance was confirmed. The 67-year-old revealed in a speech last year that she became a fan of the program during her time living in Oxford with her late British husband, the scholar Michael Aris, and two sons.

Traditional Burmese music, Mozart’s “Overture to the Magic Flute” and Pachelbel’s “Canon” also made Suu Kyi’s list, while her chosen book was the Buddhist Abhidhamma and her luxury item was a pot of roses that would change color every day.

Suu Kyi sparked controversy by admitting in the interview that she is fond of the Burmese military. “It’s terrible what they’ve done and I don’t like what they’ve done at all, but if you love somebody, I think you love her or him in spite of and not because of, and you always look forward to a time when they will be able to redeem themselves,” she said of Burma’s armed forces that were founded by her father, national independence hero General Aung San.

(MORE: Burma’s Kachin War: Renewed Ethnic Strife Threatens Regional Stability)

In lighter moments, the National League for Democracy chairwoman admitted to being quite the catch during her student days. “I turned a few heads,” she said.

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