Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar was under a military regime from 1962 until 2011. A reform took place a few years back when the first civilian government was formed by Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner – with her National League for Democracy Party (NLD) after winning with a clear majority. But on February 1, 2021, the military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically-elected leaders and seized control of the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician, diplomat, author, and Nobel laureate. Suu Kyi is highly known for such a figure, who once gave up on her freedom to the ruthless ruling military generals of Myanmar for bringing democracy and protecting human rights in the country. Her name is derived from the name of three people, Aung San- her father, Suu from parental grandmother, and Kyi from her mother.
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On the 19th of June 1945 in Rangoon, Burma which is now known as Yangon, Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi was born. Her father Aung San is a legendary liberation movement leader of Burma, and her mother Khin Kyi was a prominent Burmese diplomat. During World war II, her father Aung San allied with the Japanese and founded the modern Burmese army. Unfortunately in 1947, Suu Kyi lost her father when she was only two years old. He was assassinated, just before Burma earned its independence from the colonial rule of the British.
She lived with her mother and grew up with her two brother brothers Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo. Tragically, one of her brothers, Lin drowned and lost his life when eight years old. The other brother, Oo, later emigrated and became an American citizen.
She received her education in Burma, India, and the UK. Suu Kyi attended schools in Burma until 1960. That was the year when her mother was appointed as an ambassador to India and Nepal. After that, she continued her education in New Delhi. In 1964, she graduated in Politics from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. For further studies, she attended St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University, from where she obtained a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1967 and an M.A. degree in Politics in 1968. She was also elected as an Honorary Fellow at St. Hugh, Oxford in 1990.
Aung San Suu Kyi met with Dr. Michael Aris while attending her college at Oxford. He was a scholar of Tibetan Culture and Literature. They got married on January 1, 1972. Suu Kyi and Aris gave birth to two sons, Alexandar and Kim.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of her life under detentions. Her husband died of cancer in 1999. As she was under detention at that time, she was allowed to go see him but the fear remained that she wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. Thus, she couldn’t be together with him at his last breath. Aung San and Aris had last met on Christmas of 1995 and met just five times since 1989 and hadn’t seen each other since then.
Aung San Suu Kyi: POLITICAL CAREER
Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to look after her critically ill mother. At that time, Burma was facing a political disturbance. There was a heavy protest in seek of democracy against the military regime. The protestors who came out on the streets were ruthlessly slaughtered in mass by the rule of military strongman U Ne Win. On August 28, 1889, at a speech in Yangon, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “I could not as my father’s daughter remain indifferent to all that was going on.” Suu Kyi was highly influenced by the movements of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Thus she, following the steps of her father led the non-violent revolt.
On 27 September 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) and was elected the General Secretary of the party. But the following year on July 20 1989 she was put under house arrest. She was offered to be freed if she leaves Myanmar. Also, the previous democratically elected Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu initiated to form an interim government and invited opposition leaders to join hands. However, Aung San Suu Kyi turned down the proposal.
The national election was held in 1990 and NLD won the elections with a clear majority. However, the military junta ignored the results and refused to hand over the control to NLD. Suu Kyi was again put under house arrest at her home on University Avenue. Even being under arrest she still was determined to bring a democratic government into the country. All of her movement was non-violent. That made her earn the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. As she was under house arrest, her son Alexander received the award in her place.
She got released in 1995 though there was a restriction to her traveling outside Yangon. She even had to face an attack in 1996. In 1999, before she lost her husband, the military junta had denied Aris’s visa to visit her in Myanmarr. She couldn’t travel beside Yangon and if she had visited her husband in London, she could have no chance to re-enter Myanmar again. Thus, she couldn’t meet her husband before his death. Suu Kyi was again put under house arrest from 2000 to 2002 for the reason that she attempted to travel outside Yangon when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay.
In 2002 she was released, but when there caught a clash between her supporters and pro-governmental demonstrators, she was returned to house arrest again in 2003. Huge international calls were made for her release. In 2008 the conditions of her house arrest were somewhat loosened, allowing her to receive some magazines as well as letters from her children, who were both living abroad. Her detention was much strict this time. Even then, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was not allowed to meet her when he visited the country in 2009. On 18 August 2009, US President Barack Obama also had requested Myanmar’s military leadership to set all political prisoners free.
In 2009, the United Nations also declared her detention as illegal, even under Myanmar’s own law. This detention seemed like it was to prevent her from participating in multiparty parliamentary elections scheduled for 2010. The new election rules enacted in 2010 mentioned that someone who has been convicted of a crime and someone who has married a foreigner cannot participate in elections. This law got disbanded later.
The elections held in 2012 gave the NLD 43 out of 45 seats. The military junta finally agreed to sign orders allowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s release. Her house arrest term came to an end on 13 November 2010. In May, she left Myanmar for the first time in 24 years.
But this didn’t end here. Again on February 1, 2021, she has been put under house arrest for election fraud.
Aung San Suu Kyi had received support from all over the world. She has maintained a high international profile in her fight to bring political liberalization to Myanmar. In 2014, she was listed as the 61st Most Powerful Women in the world by Forbes. Her aim toward her country has been to establish a democratic society in which the country’s ethnic groups could cooperate in harmony. Suu Kyi is considered the beacon of freedom in such a country where freedom is rare to find. Her endless effort for protecting Human Rights and bringing democracy to a country that is ruled by cruel military rulers is what has made her Burma’s modern symbol of freedom.