Childhood & Early Life
Daughter of former de facto prime minister of Burma Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon.
Post the assassination of her father, Aung San Suu Kyi was looked after her mother. She had two brothers, one of whom died and the other emigrated to San Diego, California.
She gained her primary education from Methodist English High School. It was here that her trait for learning different languages cropped up.
Growing up in a political background, Suu Kyi was exposed to diverse political views and religions. Meanwhile, her mother Khin Kyi was appointed as a Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal in 1960.
Suu Kyi came to India along with her mother and completed her higher education from Convent of Jesus and Mary School. She graduated from Lady Shri Ram College with a degree in politics in 1964.
Thereafter, Suu Kyi moved to United Kingdom from where she obtained her B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1969 from St Hugh's College, Oxford.
She started working with the United Nations particularly as a writer on budget matters, a job which she continued for three years.
From 1985 until 1987, Suu Kyi worked as a research student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to gain an M.Phil degree in Burmese literature.
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Return to Burma
In 1988, with an aim to take care of her ailing mother, Suu Kyi returned to Burma. This move turned out to be a turning point in the life of Suu Kyi as she became actively involved in the pro-democracy movement.
General Ne Win, military leader of Burma and head of the ruling party, stepped down which brought in mass demonstration for democracy. Public moved out in huge numbers on August 8, 1988 calling for democracy and independence but were violently suppressed by the military.
Suu Kyi addressed the people rally in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital, calling for a democratic government. However, this was to no avail as the military junta captured power.
To bring down the authoritarian rule of the military, Suu Kyi entered politics and founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) party on September 27, 1988. Her party worked on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and Buddhist concepts.
Serving as the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy.
On July 20, 1989, she was placed under house arrest and was offered freedom only if she left the country.
Facing increasing domestic and international pressure, the dictatorship was forced to call a general election in 1990. The election results mirrored the demands for the Burmese society as the NLD party received a massive 59% of the votes, guaranteeing NLD 80% of the parliament seats.
Though Suu Kyi was eligible for taking up the position of the Prime Minister, the results of the votes were nullified and the military assumed office, resulting in an international outcry.
Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. It was during this time that she won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and Nobel Peace Prize. While the award was received by her two sons, she used the award money to raise health and education trust for the Burmese people.
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Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July 1995.
In 1996, Suu Kyi, while traveling in with other National League for Democracy leaders Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung, was attacked by 200 men who smashed the vehicles with wielding metal chains, metal batons, stones and other weapons.
Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest on numerous occasions in her political career, which prevented her from meeting party supporters and international visitors. Media and family members were also not allowed to visit Suu Kyi. The government explained this action by proclaiming that Suu Kyi was undermining community peace and stability.
Over the years, United Nations has been actively working towards facilitating a dialogue between the military and Suu Kyi. However, it has failed to bring any positive result.
The United Nations claim for Universal Declaration of Human Rights being granted to Suu Kyi also met unproductive result as the military argued providing Suu Kyi with protection in her own interest rather than house arrest.
In 2009, following the successful visit of United Nations diplomats and U.S. President Barack Obama, the Burmese government citied the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi. The diplomats also laid emphasis on encouraging the Burmese for a democratic reform in return for economic help and foreign aid.
The date of the release of Suu Kyi was fixed on November 13, 2010. Meanwhile, prior to that, she was allowed to meet senior members of her NLD party at the State House. Additionally, she met with many heads of state.
Suu Kyi’s release brought in a whirl of supporters who rushed to her house in Rangoon. She was even visited by her son, Kim Aris, who visited his mother first time in ten years.
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Kim later came to Burma twice the same year, each time accompanying Suu Kyi on her trip to Bagan and Peru.
In 2011, NLD announced its intention to re-register as a political party in order to contend 48 by-elections necessitated by the promotion of parliamentarians to ministerial rank.
Same year, i.e. in 2011, Suu Kyi met Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which was historical as it was her first-ever meeting with the leader of a foreign country.
In 2012, Suu Kyi won a seat in the Parliament. Additionally, her party, National League for Democracy won 43 of the 45 contested seats, officially making Suu Kyi the Leader of the Opposition in the lower house.
On May 2, 2012, Suu Kyi along with other MP elects of the NLD party took their oaths and attended office. Two months later, on July 9, 2012, she attended the Parliament for the first time as a lawmaker.
Suu Kyi announced on the World Economic Forum’s website her willingness to run for presidency in Myanmar's 2015 election on June 6, 2013.
Awards & Achievements
She was awarded Nobel Peace Prize 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights".
Suu Kyi has been granted various titles in her life. Some of them include Doctor Honoris Causa by Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université catholique de Louvain, Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law by St Hughs College Oxford her alma mater and Honorary Fellow by School of Oriental and African Studies.
She was the honorary member of The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. However, she stepped down from her post upon her election to parliament. She was Club of Madrid Honorary Member in 2008. She has been an honorary board member of International IDEA and ARTICLE 19 since her detention.
Suu Kyi received Francois Zimeray, France's Ambassador for Human Rights in 2011.
Personal Life & Legacy
Aung San Suu Kyi tied the nuptial knot in the year 1971 to Dr Micheal Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture. She met him while she was working for the United Nations.
The couple was blessed with two sons, Alexander Aris and Kim in 1972 and 1977 respectively.
The love life of the couple was however a distressed one as the two could not meet each other frequently. While Aris was denied an entry visa by the Burmese dictatorship, Suu Kyi suffered from house arrest.
For the temporary duration that she was relieved of the house arrest protocol, Suu Kyi feared moving out of the country as she did not trust the military junta's assurance that she could return. Due to this, Aris and Suu Kyi remained apart from each other meeting only five times from 1989 until his death in 1999. Aris was suffering from terminal prostate cancer.
Suu Kyi was also separated from her children who are settled in United Kingdom. Since 2011, they have visited their mother in Burma on several occasions.
Ironically, she moved to Burma to nurse her ailing mother but became engaged in the country’s nationwide democratic uprising so much so that she became the face for democratic and free Burma.
She has spent 15 of the 21 years from July 20, 1989 until November 13, 2010 under house arrest in Burma, thus, becoming one of the world's most prominent political prisoners.
A Theravada Buddhist, her campaign for a democratic Burma was on the lines of the philosophy of non-violence advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Buddhist concepts.
She met her husband Dr Micheal Aris for the last time in 1995 before his death in 1999. While he was not granted a visa for the claim that he would not be able to receive the kind of treatment that he required, the military encouraged her to leave the country to visit him. However, she did not leave the country as she knew she would not be allowed to return to Burma.
Michelle Yeoh, who played the character of Burmese pro-democracy leader, for the film, ‘The Lady’ was deported from Burma on June 22, 2011.