August 4, 2014

Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi carries flowers as she visits  
polling station in Kawhmu township, Burma, 1 
April 2012. Aung San Suu Kyi stood for election 
for the first time in 2012

'The military authorities offered to allow her to travel to the UK to see him [husband] when he was gravely ill, but she felt compelled to refuse for fear she would not be allowed back into the country.'

BBC News 30 May 2012

Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.

The 66-year-old spent most of the last two decades in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.

In 1991, a year after her National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory in an election the junta later nullified, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The committee chairman, Francis Sejested, called her "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless".

She was sidelined for Burma's first elections in two decades on 7 November 2010 but released from house arrest six days later.

As the new government embarked on a process of reform, Ms Suu Kyi and her party rejoined the political process.

On 1 April 2012 she stood for parliament in a by-election, arguing it was what her supporters wanted even if the country's reforms were "not irreversible".

She and her fellow NLD candidates won a landslide victory and weeks later the former political prisoner was sworn into parliament, a move unimaginable before the 2010 polls.

Aung San Suu Kyi (centre) with her parents and two brothers in an image
 from 1947 Ms Suu Kyi was a toddler when her father was assassinated

Political pedigree
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the country's independence hero, General Aung San.

He was assassinated during the transition period in July 1947, just six months before independence, when Ms Suu Kyi was only two.

In 1960 she went to India with her mother Daw Khin Kyi, who had been appointed Burma's ambassador to Delhi.

Four years later she went to Oxford University in the UK, where she studied philosophy, politics and economics. There she met her future husband, academic Michael Aris.

After stints of living and working in Japan and Bhutan, she settled in the UK to raise their two children, Alexander and Kim, but Burma was never far from her thoughts.

When she arrived back in Rangoon in 1988 - to look after her critically ill mother - Burma was in the midst of major political upheaval.

Thousands of students, office workers and monks took to the streets demanding democratic reform.

"I could not as my father's daughter remain indifferent to all that was going on," she said in a speech in Rangoon on 26 August 1988.

Ms Suu Kyi was soon propelled into leading the revolt against the then-dictator, General Ne Win.

Inspired by the non-violent campaigns of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and India's Mahatma Gandhi, she organised rallies and travelled around the country, calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections.

But the demonstrations were brutally suppressed by the army, who seized power in a coup on 18 September 1988.

The military government called national elections in May 1990.

Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD convincingly won the polls, despite the fact that she herself was under house arrest and disqualified from standing.

But the junta refused to hand over control, and has remained in power ever since.

House arrest
Ms Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Rangoon for six years, until she was released in July 1995.

She was again put under house arrest in September 2000, when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay in defiance of travel restrictions.

She was released unconditionally in May 2002, but just over a year later she was put in prison following a clash between her supporters and a government-backed mob.

She was later allowed to return home - but again under effective house arrest.

During periods of confinement, Ms Suu Kyi busied herself studying and exercising. She meditated, worked on her French and Japanese language skills, and relaxed by playing Bach on the piano.

At times she was able to meet other NLD officials and selected diplomats.

But during her early years of detention, she was often in solitary confinement. She was not allowed to see her two sons or her husband, who died of cancer in March 1999.

The military authorities offered to allow her to travel to the UK to see him when he was gravely ill, but she felt compelled to refuse for fear she would not be allowed back into the country.

Her last period of house arrest ended in November 2010 and her son Kim Aris was allowed to visit her for the first time in a decade.

When by-elections were held in April 2012, to fill seats vacated by politicians who had taken government posts, she and her party contested seats, despite reservations.

"Some are a little bit too optimistic about the situation," she said in an interview before the vote. "We are cautiously optimistic. We are at the beginning of a road."

She and the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats contested, in an emphatic statement of support. Weeks later, Ms Suu Kyi took the oath in parliament and became the leader of the opposition.

And in May, she embarked on a visit outside Burma for the first time in 24 years, in a sign of apparent confidence that Burma's new leaders would allow her to return.


Anonymous said...

I wonder do her countrymen/women outcast her as a westernized educated woman who married an Englishman.
We, Khmer, worship her.
We have our own heroines but "not" of Suu Kyi’s caliber like Mu Sochua, Pong Chiv Gek…
Instead of praising them, we bash them.
Why do Khmer behave this way?
Why do they like to look down on their own blood but praise the foreigners?
Is this some kind of Khmer hereditary disease?

Jendhamuni said...

Most inspiring and heart-touching story of Aung San Suu Kyi. Still a tough woman after all the tragic things she had gone through...

I never knew she practiced meditation. No wonder why she looks so young and peaceful.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

at 2:52 AM

ចរឹកខ្មែរ :

ផ្លែទៀបដែលឆ្ងាញ់ គេនិយមហៅ ផ្លែទៀប សាំងកាប៉ូ ។
តាមពិតទៅ សាំងកាប៉ូ មិនដែលមានដីដាំផ្លែទៀបផងនឹង។

Anonymous said...

If you have a chance, find her Nobel Peace Prize speech on Youtube. It is a great speech.

Anonymous said...

Many Khmer nationalists had struggled far harder than Aung San Suu Kyi, for the freedom of our nation. I don't have to name them, but you should learn more about our struggles.

Jendhamuni said...

Dear August 4, 2014 at 11:13 AM,

Are you okay? Is it wrong that I love Aung San Suu Kyi? Is it wrong that Aung San Suu Kyi is my role model?
Does it bother you that much, that Aung San Suu Kyi is the woman I love most in this entire world, besides my Mother?


Anonymous said...

You may love anyone in this world beside your mother. It's not my problem. What makes it a problem is that her story has been posted over again in KIMEDIA. Her story inspired millions around the world. We all knew about her. I want to learn about Khmer hero. Can you find one who has similar calibre to Aung San Suu Kyi?

Anonymous said...

នាងចិណ្ដា នាងបានទំលាក់នាងធារី បានហើយៗបានក្លាយ
ជាស្ដេចស្រីនៅទីនេះហើយ​ នាងចង់តាមឈ្នានីសគេធ្វើឣីទៀត?
មាត់នាងថាកាន់​ព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា តែចិត្តនាងជាយ័ក្សា ។
នាងឣាចភរគេបាន តែភរខ្លួនឣែងមិនបានទេ ។

Jendhamuni said...

Dear August 5, 2014 at 2:58 AM,

Have you been sleeping or something? We talk about our heroes countless times. Heroic Buddhist monks, Ven. Hem Cheav, Samdech Chuon Nath, Maha Ghosananda, Krola Homkong, Kleang Moeung, Son Kuy, etc. Hello, where were you?;)

Is it because you are a she? And you cannot handle the compassionate heart and heroic action of Aung San Suu Kyi? If this is a case, your mind is so narrow. Grow up, open your heart, and learn from the world leaders!