Aung San Suu Kyi Biography
Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced as Ong San Soo Chee) is the leading face of the pro-democracy movement and a leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar. Suu Kyi is one of the world’s most renowned freedom fighters and advocates of nonviolence. Born to a Burmese military officer Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi, Aung San followed the footprints of her father and emerged as a central figure of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. Active in politics since 1988, Aung San has spent most of her time under several house arrests and bans and is currently under detention by the military junta. The venerated leader has won many national and international awards including Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament in 1990, United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award from India and Rafto Human Rights Prize and was awarded the honorary Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle against the dictatorship in year 1991.
Childhood and Education
Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June, 1945 in Rangoon, capital city of Myanmar (then Burma). Her father, Aung San, was the architect of Burma’s independence. He founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma’s independence from the British Empire in 1947. He was, however, assassinated by his rivals in the same year when Suu Kyi was barely two years old.. Her mother Daw Khin Kyi was working in the External Affairs Ministry and was appointed Myanmar’s ambassador to India in 1960.
Aung San Suu Kyi completed her basic education at schools in Rangoon and moved to India following her mother’s appointment as Myanmar’s envoy to India in 1960. Suu Kyi continued her studies in India. She graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi in 1964. After graduating she went to Oxford University for further studies and completed her BA in philosophy, politics, and economics at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University in 1967.
Suu Kyi in Office
In 1969, during her visit to United States for further study, she met United Nations’ Secretary General U Thant and joined as the Assistant Secretary, Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. In 1972, Suu Kyi worked as the Research Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan. Same year she married Dr. Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture, living in Bhutan. The couple had two children, Alexander and Kim. During 1985-86, Suu Kyi studied at the Center of Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, as a visiting scholar. Suu Kyi completed her fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, in 1987.
Suu Kyi in Politics
In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Myanmar to nurse her ailing mother and plunged into the nationwide uprising for the establishment of democracy. It all happened following the resignation of General Ne Win on July 23, 1988. Suu Kyi, in an open letter to the military government asked to establish a rule of the people in Myanmar. On 8 August, 1988, people, raising pro-democracy slogans assembled at the prominent places of the capital. The event led to a mass slaughter carried out by the ruling junta against the uprising throughout country. The military regime killed over 10,000 demonstrators, including students, women, and children – in a span of months.
In September 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi, in her first political move, joined the National League for Democracy as its secretary-general. The party was pushing for political reforms in the country. Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy. On July 20, 1989 Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in the city of Rangoon. The same year, her mother, Daw Khin, after a prolonged, illness passed away.
Unable to maintain its grip on power, even during her detention, the “junta” was forced to call for a general election in 1990. Despite being held under house arrest, the NLD went on to win a staggering 82% of the seats in parliament. But, the junta regime refused to recognise the results. After six years of arrest and confinement Suu Kyi was released in July 1995. The military always offered her to leave the country and settle abroad but Suu Kyi rejected.
Suu Kyi’s Release and Re-detention
After her release Suu Kyi continued the struggle for democracy in Myanmar. This increased her popularity across the world and international political powers were compelled to intervene to resolve the issue. Though the western countries tried to put pressure on the ruling junta by curtailing economic aid, the neighboring countries continued to encourage the commerce. The military rulers increasingly restricted Suu Kyi’s movements during 1996. She was also barred from traveling outside Rangoon and put under house arrest. In May 2002, Suu Kyi was released and the military government indicated that the release was unconditional and that Suu Kyi was free to pursue her political activities as leader of the NLD.
She was again arrested and placed behind bars in May 2003 after the Depayin massacre, during which up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death by the regime’s cronies. She moved from prison back into house arrest in late 2003 and has been held there ever since.
Death of Michael Aris
On March 27 1999, while Aung San Suu Kyi was in Burma, Michael Aris died of cancer in London. He had petitioned the Burmese authorities to allow him to visit Suu Kyi one last time, but they had rejected his request. The government always urged Suu Kyi to join her family abroad, but she knew that she would not be allowed to return.
Suu Kyi has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award from India and Rafto Human Rights Prize.