Aung San Suu Kyi
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Aung San Suu Kyi
“We achieve everything by our efforts alone. Our fate is not decided by an almighty God. We decide our own fate by our actions. You have to gain mastery over yourself. It is not a matter of sitting back and accepting.” (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi)
Background and Inspirations
Aung San Suu Kyi was the daughter of one of Burmas most cherished heroes, the martyred General Aung San, who led his countrys fight for independence from Great Britain in the 1940s and was killed for his beliefs in 1947. Suu Kyi has equaled her fathers heroics with her calm but passionate advocacy of freedom and democracy in the country now called Myanmar, a name chosen by one of the most insensitive and brutal military dictatorships in the world.
Suu Kyi (pronounced Soo Chee) was two years old when her father Ð- the de facto prime minister of newly independent Burma Ð- was assassinated. Though a Buddhist Ð- the predominant religion of Burma Ð- she was educated at Catholic schools and left for India in her mid-teens with her mother, who became the Burmese ambassador to India. Suu Kyi went to England where she studied at Oxford University. There she met Michael Aris, the Tibetan scholar whom she married. They had two sons, Alexander and Kim.
In 1988, when Suu Kyi received a call from Burma that her mother had suffered a stroke and did not have long to live. Suu Kyi returned to Burma, leaving her husband and two children behind in England.
She arrived back in Burma to nurse her mother at a time of a burgeoning pro-democracy movement, fueled by the energy and idealism among the countrys young people. There were demonstrations against the repressive, one-party socialist government. Suu Kyi was drawn into the pro-democracy movement, which was snuffed out by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which seized power on September 18, 1988. Thousands of pro-democracy advocates were killed.
Next came a general election in 1990, which political parties were allowed to contest. Suu Kyi headed the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory, with 80 per cent support. This was not be tolerated by the SLORC leaders, who refused to recognize the election results. Worse, SLORC put the elected pro-democracy leaders under house arrest, including Suu Kyi.
Despite the restrictions of house arrest, Suu Kyi continued to campaign for democracy, and for this she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
There was outrage around the world in 2000 when Suu Kyi tried to leave Yangon, only to be thwarted by authorities. In August of that year Suu Kyi, her driver and 14 members of her pro-democracy party were confined in two cars on the side of the road outside of Yangon. She endured a similar roadside standoff for 13 days in 1998, during which time she suffered severe dehydration and had to be returned to her home by ambulance.
The news event that brought Suu Kyi back into prominence in May 2002 was her release from 19 months of house arrest in her barricaded villa in Yangon, formerly Rangoon. The United Nations helped to negotiate her release this time.
In 1999, Michael Aris, was dying of prostate cancer in England, where he lived with their two sons. He had repeatedly requested permission to visit his wife one last time before he died, but the SLORC authorities denied him entry, arguing that there are no proper facilities in the country to tend to a dying man. They suggested instead that Suu Kyi visit him in England. She refused, fearing if she ever left the country she would never be allowed to return.
The day Aris died, on his 53rd birthday on March 27, 1999, Suu Kyi honored the occasion at her home in Rangoon, with 1,000 friends and supporters, including high-ranking diplomats from Europe and the United States. She cried only when one of the monks reminded the audience that the essence of Buddhism is to treat suffering with equanimity.
The police did not stop the supporters from visiting Suu Kyi in her time of grief. But they took the names and addresses of all those who attended at the service to honor the husband from whom she had been separated since she left England to tend to her dying mother.
Impact on History
One of Suu Kyis most dramatic speeches was in 1995, soon after she was released from nearly six years of house arrest, when she spoke to a global womens conference in Beijing. She didnt appear at the conference, but spoke