29. AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Freedom from fear
Aung San Suu Kyi (Pronounced: Awn Sahn Sue Chee) (1945-) is an international icon for peace and the embodiment of the Burmese (now Myanmar) people’s fight for democracy after 50 years of oppressive military rule. She is the daughter of General Aung San, the leader of the fight for independence from the British, who was assassinated in 1947 (the same year he successfully led the independence movement). Born in Rangoon, Burma, in 1945, Suu later spent time in New Delhi and studied in London, earning her BA in philosophy, politics and economics. There she met her husband, Michael Aris, and raised two sons, Alexander and Kim. In 1988, Suu Kyi moved back to Rangoon to care for her ailing mother but soon found herself entering the political arena as she helped form the National League for Democracy (NLD).
In 1990 the NLD overwhelmingly won a general election over the ruling military junta but in a despicable and unforgivable act, the junta refused to concede power and instead placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, where she would spend 15 of the next 21 years. During that time, she won the Nobel Peace Prize and continued her struggle for democracy. The saddest part of all this: Suu Kyi was separated from her husband and sons in the United Kingdom. She only saw her husband 5 times from 1989 to 1999, when Aris died from cancer. Suu Kyi decided not to visit Aris when he was sick because she was sure the Junta wouldn’t let her back into Burma.
‘The Lady’ as Suu Kyi is known, was finally released for good in November 2010. Since then, the government has begun to very slightly loosen their grip on power and open up the country to democracy after a new (military-backed) political party took over. This will culminate in next week’s bi-elections, where Suu Kyi will contest for a seat in parliament. It’s a small step (the military will still account for most of the parliament seats) but a very important one, as the whole world will be watching to see how dedicated the new government is to change. The outcome will also help determine if western sanctions on the country are lifted. Unfortunately, Suu Kyi was recently forced to end her campaign appearances due to ill health.
UPDATE: She won! Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in Parliament at the recent bi-election. Exciting and hopeful times for the Burmese people.
- My parents left Burma and migrated to Australia in 1975. My brother and I were born and raised in Australia. Growing up, I never wanted for anything – clothing, food, education, healthcare, toys, video games, comic books … way too many comic books. Things I took for granted growing up in The Lucky Country. It’s scary to think what my life could have been like had my parents stayed in Burma. I’ve never visited my motherland but definitely plan to go in the next few years.
- A movie biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi was recently released. The Lady stars Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi and was directed by Luc Besson. The plot focuses on gravelly-voiced, ex-CIA agent Liam Neeson, who must rescue Suu Kyi from her captors by punching them in the face repeatedly. Oh wait, that was Besson’s other movie.