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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Born: June 19, 1945
Rangoon, Burma (present-day Myanmar)

Burmese political leader

I n 1988 Aung San Suu Kyi became the major leader of the movement toward the reestablishment of democracy in Burma (now Myanmar). In 1991, while under house arrest by the government for her activities, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Early life

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon, Burma, on June 19, 1945, the youngest of three children of Bogyoke (Generalissimo) Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi. (In Burma all names are individual and people do not have last names.) Her father is known as the founder of independent Burma in 1948 and is beloved in that country. He played a major role in helping Burma win independence from the British, and he was able to win the respect of different ethnic groups through the force of his personality and the trust he inspired. Her mother had been active in women's political groups before marrying Aung San, and the couple often hosted political gatherings in their home, even after the births of their children. In July 1947 Aung San, along with most of his cabinet, was assassinated by members of an opposing political group. He never saw his country become independent on January 4, 1948.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent her early years in Burma. She later joined her mother, who was appointed as Burmese ambassador (representative) to India in 1960. She was partly educated in secondary school in India and then attended St. Hugh's College, Oxford University, in England. While there, she studied politics, economics (the production, distribution, and use of goods and services), and philosophy (the study of ideas) and received her bachelor's and master's degrees. From her father she developed a sense of duty to her country, and from her mother, who never spoke of hatred for her husband's killers, she learned forgiveness. She also became influenced by the teachings of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi (18691948), who was a believer in nonviolent civil disobedience.

For two years Aung San Suu Kyi worked at the United Nations (U.N.) in New York, New York. In 1972 she married Michael Vaillancourt Aris, a well-known scholar she had met while studying at Oxford. They had two sons and settled in England. Before they were married, Aung San Suu Kyi warned her fiancé that the people of Burma might need her one day and she would have to go back. She served as a visiting scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan, from 1985 to 1986 and at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Simla, India, in 1987.

Government takeover and house arrest

After her mother suffered a stroke in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Rangoon, Myanmar, to help take care of her. Later that year, there was a revolt against the overly strict administration associated with the militarily led Burma Socialist Party. This revolt started as a student brawl with no real political meaning. However, it was handled badly by the military and spread, becoming an expression of the unhappiness of the people that dated back to the last takeover in 1962. Unfortunately, the new group that took power, called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), did not improve conditions in the country. In August 1988 Aung San Suu Kyi gained national recognition as the effective leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), later opposed to the military-led SLORC. She became the general secretary of the NLD and was a popular and effective speaker in favor of democracy throughout the country. As a result she was placed under house arrest by the SLORC for attempting to split the army, a charge she denied.

Although Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to run for office in the May 1990 election, her party, the NLD, much to the surprise of the military, won 80 percent of the legislative seats. However, the winning candidates were never permitted to take office. For the first years of her house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to have any visitors, but later her immediate family was allowed to see her. In January 1994 the first visitor outside of her family, U.S. Congressman Bill Richardson, a Democrat from New Mexico, was allowed to meet with her. The United Nations called for her release, as did a number of other national and international groups, including Amnesty International, the worldwide human rights organization. She won many awards for democracy and human rights, including the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (European Parliament, 1991), the Nobel Peace Prize (1991), and the International Simon Bolívar Prize (1992).

Restrictions continue

Aung San Suu Kyi remained under military watch and house arrest until July 1995. Afterward the government continued to restrict her movement both inside the country and abroad. During Aung San Suu Kyi's first year of freedom, she was only permitted to take short trips in and around her home city of Rangoon and did not travel outside Myanmar. She continued, however, to serve as the vocal leader of the NLD and push for democracy. The military government, meanwhile, closed schools, ignored the healthcare needs of the people, and forced many citizens into slave labor while torturing and imprisoning others.

In 1999 Michael Vaillancourt Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi's husband, died in England. He had been denied permission by the Myanmar government to visit his wife during the last year of his life. The government suggested she go to visit him, but she remained at home, fearing that if she left, she would not be allowed to reenter the country. In September 2000 she was again placed under house arrest after attempting to travel to rural areas outside Myanmar to meet with NLD members. In December of that year U.S. president Bill Clinton (1946) awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. honor given to a civilian (nonmember of a military, police, or firefighting unit). The U.S. government also continued the ban on new investment in Myanmar and discouraged companies from doing business there as a protest against the military government's treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi and other citizens of Myanmar.

In December 2001, in Oslo, Norway, Nobel Prize winners gathered to protest Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention and signed an appeal to the Myanmar government requesting that she and fifteen hundred other political prisoners be set free. In May 2002 Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from house arrest. Once again free to move about the country, Aung San Suu Kyi drew large crowds wherever she spoke to her followers about freedom in Myanmar. "The NLD is working for the welfare of everyone in the country, not for NLD alone," she told an audience of supporters a few days after her release.

For More Information

Parenteau, John. Prisoner for Peace: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Democracy Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 1994.

Stewart, Whitney. Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice of Burma. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1997.

Victor, Barbara. The Lady: Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Laureate and Burma's Prisoner. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1998.

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

In 1988 Aung San Suu Kyi (born 1945) became the preeminent leader in Burma (now Myanmar) of the movement toward the reestablishment of democracy in that state. In 1991, while under house arrest, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aung San Suu Kyi was internationally recognized as a vibrant symbol of resistance to authoritarian rule. On July 20, 1989, she was placed under house arrest by the military coup leaders, called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), who came to power in Myanmar on September 18, 1988, in the wake of a popular but crushed uprising against the previous, and also military headed socialist government. The nation's name had been changed from Burma to Myanmar in 1980.

Aung San Suu Kyi came from a distinguished Burmese family. Her father, Bogyoke (Generalissimo) Aung San, is known as the founder of independent Burma in 1948 and is widely revered in that country. He negotiated independence from the British and was able to weld the diverse ethnic groups together through the force of his personality and the trust he engendered among all groups. He was assassinated, along with most of his cabinet, by a disaffected Burmese politician, U (Mr.) Saw, on July 22, 1947, prior to independence on January 4, 1948. That day remains a national remembrance holiday in Myanmar. His loss slowed the realization of state unity.

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Burma on June 19, 1945. She spent her early years in Burma and then joined her mother, Daw Khin Kyi (all names in Burma are individual; there are no surnames), who was appointed as Burmese ambassador to India in 1960. She was partly educated in secondary school in India and then attended St. Hugh's College, Oxford University, where she received her bachelor's and master's degrees studying politics, economics, and philosophy. For two years she worked in the United Nations Secretariat in New York. In 1972 she married Michael Vaillancourt Aris, a well-known scholar on Central Asia, Tibet, and Bhutan. They had two sons, Alexander (born in 1973 and also known by his Burmese name, Myint San Aung) and Kim (born in 1977 and also called Htein Lin).

During 1985 and 1986, Aung San Suu Kyi was a visiting scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, and in 1987 she was a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Simla.

Daw Khin Kyi, her mother, had a stroke in 1988, and Aung San Suu Kyi came back to Rangoon, Myanmar, to help nurse her. While there, the tumultuous events of 1988 that convulsed the country took place. The popular rising against the previous socialist regime associated with the militarily-led Burma Socialist Party regime was a mass revolt against an authoritarian and economically failed administration. This revolt started as an apolitical student brawl; it was handled poorly by the military and spread, becoming a vehicle for expression of the pent-up political and economic frustrations dating from the earlier coup of 1962.

On August 26, 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi gained national recognition as the effective leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), later opposed to the military-led SLORC. Aung San Suu Kyi became the general secretary of the National League for Democracy and was a charismatic and effective speaker in favor of democracy throughout the country. She was placed under house arrest by the SLORC for attempting to split the army, a charge she consistently denied.

Although she was not allowed to run for election in the May 27, 1990, election, her party, the NLD, much to the astonishment and chagrin of the military, won 80 percent of the legislative seats. They were never permitted to take office. For the first years of her house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to have any visitors, but later her immediate family was allowed to be with her on occasional trips to Myanmar. In January of 1994 the first visitor outside of her family, U.S. Congressman Bill Richardson, a Democrat from New Mexico, was allowed to meet with her. She was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. The United Nations and a large number of other national and international groups called for her unconditional release. She won many awards for democracy and human rights, including the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (European Parliament, 1991), the Nobel Peace Prize (1991), and the International Simon Bolivar Prize (UNESCO, 1992).

Aung San Suu Kyi remained under military surveillance and house arrest until July of 1995. The government continually restricted her movement throughout both the country and abroad. During Suu Kyi's first year of freedom, she was only permitted brief travel in and around her home city of Rangoon and did not travel outside of Myanmar. She continued, however, to serve as the vocal leader of the NLD and push for democracy.

Further Reading

Aung San Suu Kyi has written extensively on the life of her father, on a variety of events in Burma, on intellectual life in Burma and India under colonialism, and on literature and nationalism in Burma. These and other works and speeches, including several appreciations of her life and accomplishments, were published in English in 1991 as Freedom From Fear and Other Writings. See also David I. Steinberg, "The Future of Burma, Crisis and Choice in Myanmar," Asian Agenda Report #14 (1990). More information about Aung San Suu Kyi is contained in "Stalking the Stunt Princess" Time International (July 8, 1996). □

Additional Sources

Parenteau, John, Prisoner for peace: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's struggle for democracy, Greensboro, N.C.: Morgan Reynolds, 1994. □

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi (ouN săn sōō chē), 1945–, Burmese political leader, B.A. Oxford, 1969, Ph.D. Univ. of London, 1985. The daughter of assassinated (1947) nationalist general U Aung San, who is regarded as the founder of modern Myanmar, she lived outside the country after 1960. Returning in 1988 to care for her dying mother, she joined the opposition to U Ne Win and became leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Her outspoken criticism of the military leaders of Myanmar and the memory of her father made her a symbol of popular desire for political freedom and a focus of opposition to the dictatorship. In July, 1989, she was placed under house arrest. The NLD won 80% of the seats in 1990 elections for parliament, but the military refused to yield power. Awarded the 1990 Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle, she remained under house arrest until 1995 and was subsequently subject to severe restrictions. Nonetheless, she has stayed in Myanmar, continuing to write and speak for her cause. She was again subjected to house arrest or detention from Sept., 2000 to May, 2002, and from May, 2003, to Nov., 2010. Myanmar's military government adopted constitutional (2008) and electoral (2010) restrictions designed to prevent her from running for office or heading a political party. The NLD declined to reregister (2010) under the new election law and was dissolved by the government before the Nov., 2010, voting. Improved relations under President Thein Sein led to the NLD's recognition by 2012, when Aung San Suu Kyi announced she would be a candidate in the Apr., 2012, elections for parliament; she and more than 40 NLD candidates won seats.

See biographies by J. Wintle (2008) and P. Popham (2012).

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi (1945– ) Burmese politician, daughter of Aung San. She was under house arrest (1989–95) for leading the National League for Democracy, a coalition opposed to Burma's oppressive military junta. In l99l she received the Nobel Peace Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi won 2000 elections, but the junta ignored the result and again placed her under house arrest. In 2002, they released her after secret talks.

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"Aung San Suu Kyi." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aung-san-suu-kyi