Profile: Aung San Su Kyi
Biography of Aung San Su Kyi

Profile : Aung San Su Kyi

Arlene Gregorius looks back at the life and career of Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi:

Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela before her, Aung San Suu Kyi, has come to be seen internationally as a symbol of heroic and peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.
She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991, by which time she had been under house arrest for two out of what was to become six years. Now aged 53, Suu Kyi is the daughter of the late Burmese nationalist leader, General Aung San, whose resistance to British colonial rule culminated in Burma's independence in 1948.

After attending school in the Burmese capital Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi lived in India, and then went to Britain for her University education.

This is where she met and married her husband, Michael Aris, an Oxford University academic. Already then, Michael Aris knew his wife's destiny might ultimately lie with Burma.
"Before we were married I promised my wife that I would never stand between her and her country," he says. Aung San Suu Kyi first came to prominence when she returned to Burma in August 1988, with her husband and their two sons remaining in Britain. She became the leader of a burgeoning pro-democracy movement in the aftermath of the brutal repression of a pro-democratic uprising earlier that summer.

Election 'victory'

The movement quickly grew into a political party that went on to win an overwhelming majority 82% percent in national elections in 1990, by which time she had already been under house arrest for a year. The military regime, however, refused to relinquish power and stepped up intensified repression of her party, the National League for Democracy. Martin Smith, a writer on Burmese affairs, says there are several reasons why Aung San Suu Kyi proved such a natural leader.

"Her father was the founder of the democratic movement. So Suu Kyi in a way had inherited that kind of tradition. "But the second thing is of course down to Aung San Suu Kyi herself, her role in the democracy movement and her speeches about the need for change in Burmese society.
"And I think there is a further thing she very much had on her side - that is her comparative youth in Burmese politics." Inspired by the non-violent campaigns of the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and India's Mahatma Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi organised rallies after her return to Burma, and travelled the country, calling for peaceful democratic reforms and free elections.
She campaigned for change through dialogue. After her release from six years of house arrest in 1995, she defined what might actually produce the talks that she wants:

"We think that the strength of our movement is really in the country itself. "It is in the will of the people and the great majority of people in Burma want democracy.

"We as the National League for Democracy and as part of the forces for democracy, are always ready to work together with the authorities to achieve national reconciliation and we would like to think that the strength of our good will and the very strong desire of the people for democracy will bring positive results."

Despite Suu Kyi's official release from house arrest, there are still de facto restrictions on her freedom to move and speak, and oppression of pro-democracy activism continues. Burma's human rights record has been rated one of the worst in the wo rld after Algeria.


On1945, June 19: Born in Rangoon, Burma, as the daughter of national leader General Aung San (assasinated July 19, 1947) and Daw Khin Kyi; educated in Rangoon until 15 years old

1960: Accompanied mother to Delhi on her appointment as Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal; studied politics at Delhi University

1964-67: BA in philosophy, politics and economics, St. Hugh's College, Oxford University (elected Honorary Fellow in 1990).

1969-1971: Assistant Secretary, Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, United Nations Secretariat, New York

1972: Research Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan; married Dr. Michael Aris, a British scholar.

1973-1977: Birth of sons Alexander in London (1973) and Kim (1977) in Oxford

1985-86: Visiting Scholar, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

1987: Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla

1988, March: Aung San Suu Kyi goes back to Burma to attend her ailing mother while student protests breaks out in Rangoon.

1988, July 23: Gen. Ne Win steps down as Chairman of the Burma Socialist Programme Party(BSPP) after 26 years, triggering pro-democracy movement.

1988, August 8: The famous 8-8-88 mass uprising starts in Rangoon and spreads to the entire country, drawing millions of people to protest against the BSPP government. The following military crackdown killed thousands.

1988, August 15: Proposed the formation of a People's Consultative Committee during the democratic uprising in Burma

1988, August 26: Aung San Suu Kyi addresses half-million mass rally in front of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and calls for a democratic government.

1988, September 18: The military reestablishes its power and the State Law and Order Restoration Council is formed. The military again crushes the pro-democracy movement with force killing hundreds more.

1988, September 24: The National League for Democracy (NLD) is formed, with Aung San Suu Kyi as general secretary.

1988, December 27: Daw Khin Kyi, mother of Aung San Suu Kyi dies. The funeral procession draws a huge crowd of supporters, which turns into a peaceful protest against military rule.

1988, July-October 1989: As leader of the NLD, delivered over a hundred public addresses during extensive campaign tours in Rangoon, Pegu, Magwe, Sagaing

1988: Mandalay, Moulmein, Tavoy, Mergui, Pakkoku, Taunggyi, Kyaukpadaung, Monywa, Myinmu, Myitkyina, etc.

1989, April 5: Aung San Suu Kyi confronts an army unit ordered to aim their rifles at her while campaigning in the Irrawaddy Delta. An army major finally intervenes, countermands the order and prevents her assassination.

1989, June 21: Aung San Suu Kyi attends memorial service for the dissidents killed earlier in 1988 uprisings. The military detains several students.

1989, July 19: To avoid confrontations with several thousand additional troops deployed by SLORC, the NLD leadership calls off the mass rally planned at the annual Martyr's Day ceremonies.

1989, July 20: The military regime that seized power from the people on September 18, 1988, placed her under house arrest in Rangoon under martial law that allows for dentention without charge or trial for three years; went on hunger strike to protect the students taken from her house to the Military Intelligence Interrogation Center; recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International

1990, May 27: Despite her continuing detention, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the general elections by securing 82 percent of the seats; the military junta refuses to recognize the results of the election

1990, October 12: Awarded, in absentia, the 1990 Rafto Human Rights Prize.

1990, December 19: In response to a call by UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar for her release, the SLORC issued a statement that "should she wish to stay together with her husband and children, she would be allowed to leave Burma on humanitarian grounds."

1991, July 10: Awarded, in absentia, the 1990 Sakharov Prize (human rights prize of the European Parliament)

1991, August 10: The military regime retroactively amends the law under which Aung San Suu Kyi is held to allow for detention for up to five years without charge or trial.

1991, October 14: Awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize

1991, December 10: Aung San Suu Kyi's Freedom from fear and other writings published in London.

1992: The Nobel Committee revealed that Aung San Suu Kyi has established a health and education trust in support of the Burmese people to use the $1.3 million prize money.

1993: Seven fellow Nobel Laureates flew into Thailand having been denied entry into Burma. From there, they called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, visited refugee camps and offered support to the democratic and ethnic opposition of Burma. They traveled on to Geneva to repeat their appeal at the UN Commission for Human Rights.

1994, January 21: The military junta used another excuse to continue the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. It says she can be detained for up to six years under their law. Whilst the regime as a whole can choose to detain a person for five years, the regime said an extra year can be added by the decision of a three-member committee comprising the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Defense.

February 14, 1994: UNDP Resident Representative Jehan Raheem, US Congressman Bill Richardson and New York Times reporter Philip Shenon visit Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time from outside her family. Aung San Suu Kyi calls for a dialogue with SLORC.

September 20, 1994: Gen. Than Shwe and Gen. Khin Nyunt of SLORC meet Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time since the house arrest.

October 28, 1994: A second meeting takes place at the State Guest House between Gen. Khin Nyunt and Aung San Suu Kyi.

July 10, 1995: The junta releases Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

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