suu kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

[oung sahn soo kee]
Aung San Suu Kyi (àunsʰánsṵtʃì); born 19 June 1945 in Rangoon, is a pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, and a noted prisoner of conscience and advocate of nonviolent resistance. Aung San Suu Kyi was the third child in her family. Her name is derived from three relatives; "Aung San" from her father, "Kyi" from her mother and "Suu" from her grandmother. Suu Kyi won the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 1992 she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru peace prize by the Government of India for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. She is currently under detention, with the Burmese junta repeatedly extending her detention. According to the results of the 1990 general election, Suu Kyi earned the right to be Prime Minister, as leader of the winning National League for Democracy party, but her detention by the military junta prevented her from assuming that role.

She is frequently called Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; Daw is not part of her name, but an honorific similar to madam for older, revered women, literally meaning "aunt". Strictly speaking, she has only the one name, though it is acceptable to refer to her as "Ms. Suu Kyi" or Dr. Suu Kyi, since those syllables serve to distinguish her from her father, General Aung San, who is considered to be the father of modern-day Burma.

Personal life

Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945. Her father, Aung San, was a general in the Burmese army and negotiated Burma's independence from the United Kingdom in 1947; he was assassinated by his rivals in the same year. She grew up with her mother, Khin Kyi, and two brothers, Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo in Yangon. Her favourite brother Aung San Lin drowned in a pool accident when Suu Kyi was eight. Her elder brother migrated to San Diego, California, becoming a United States citizen. Suu Kyi was educated in English Catholic schools for much of her childhood in Burma.

Khin Kyi (Ma Khin Kyi) gained prominence as a political figure in the newly-formed Burmese government. Khin Kyi was appointed as Burmese ambassador to India in 1960, and Aung San Suu Kyi followed her there, graduating from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi in 1964.

She continued her education at St Hugh's College, Oxford, obtaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1969 and a Ph.D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 1985. She also worked for the government of the Union of Myanmar. In 1972, Aung San Suu Kyi married Dr. Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture, living abroad in Bhutan. The following year she gave birth to her first son, Alexander, in London; and in 1977 she had her second son, Kim.

She is a Theravada Buddhist.

In May 2, 2008, after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, Suu Kyi lost her roof and was living in virtual darkness after she lost electricity in her dilapidated lakeside bungalow. She used candles at night because she did not have a generator.

Political beginnings

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to take care of her ailing mother. By coincidence, in that year, the long-time leader of the socialist ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down, leading to mass demonstrations for democratization on August 8, 1988 (8-8-88, a day seen as auspicious), which were violently suppressed. A new military junta took power.

Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and by more specifically Buddhist concepts, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratisation, helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988, and was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. She was offered freedom if she left the country, but she refused.

One of her most famous speeches is the "Freedom From Fear" speech, which begins:

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.


  • Born June 19th 1945, Rangoon, Burma.
  • 1960, Accompanies mother to Delhi on her appointment as Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal and studies politics at Delhi University.
  • 1964-1967, BA in philosophy, politics and economics, St. Hugh's College, University of Oxford. She is elected Honorary Fellow in 1990.
  • 1972, Married Dr. Michael Aris, a British scholar.
  • 1988, Returns to Burma to look after sick mother. Becomes involved with politics.
  • August 26th 1988, Addresses half-million mass rally in front of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and calls for a democratic government.
  • In 1990, the military junta called a general election, which the National League for Democracy won decisively. Being the NLD's candidate, Aung San Suu Kyi under normal circumstances would have assumed the office of Prime Minister. Instead, the results were nullified, and the military refused to hand over power. This resulted in an international outcry. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest at her home in Yangon. During her arrest, she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990, and the Nobel Peace Prize the year after. Her sons Alexander and Kim accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf. Aung San Suu Kyi used the Nobel Peace Prize's 1.3 million USD prize money to establish a health and education trust for the Burmese people.
  • The military government released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in July 1995 but made it clear that if she left the country to visit her family in the United Kingdom, it would not allow her return.
  • When her husband, Michael Aris, a British citizen, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, the Burmese government denied him an entry visa. Aung San Suu Kyi remained in Burma, and never again saw her husband, who died in March 1999. She remains separated from her children, who live in the United Kingdom.
  • The junta continually prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from meeting with her party supporters or international visitors.
  • In 1998, journalist Maurizio Giuliano, after photographing Aung San Suu Kyi, was stopped by customs officials, and all his films, tapes and some notes were confiscated.
  • In September 2000, the junta put her under house arrest again.
  • On 6 May 2002, following secret confidence-building negotiations led by the United Nations, the government released her; a government spokesman said that she was free to move "because we are confident that we can trust each other". Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed "a new dawn for the country".
  • However on 30 May 2003, a government-sponsored mob attacked her caravan in the northern village of Depayin, murdering and wounding many of her supporters. Aung San Suu Kyi fled the scene with the help of her driver, Ko Kyaw Soe Lin, but was arrested upon reaching Ye-U. The government imprisoned her at Insein Prison in Yangon.
  • After she underwent a hysterectomy in September 2003, the government again placed her under house arrest in Yangon.
  • In March 2004, Razali Ismail, UN special envoy to Burma, met with Aung San Suu Kyi. Ismail resigned from his post the following year, partly because he was denied re-entry to Myanmar on several occasions.
  • On 28 May 2004, the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention rendered an Opinion (No. 9 of 2004) that her deprivation of liberty was arbitrary, as being in contravention of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and requested that the authorities in Burma set her free, but the authorities have so far ignored this request.
  • On 28 November 2005, the National League for Democracy confirmed that Suu Kyi's house arrest by the ruling military government would be extended for yet another year. Many Western countries, as well as the United Nations, expressed their disapproval of this extension.
  • On 20 May 2006, Ibrahim Gambari, UN Undersecretary-General (USG) of Department of Political Affairs, met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the first visit by a foreign official since 2004. Suu Kyi's house arrest term was set to expire 27 May 2006, but the Burmese government extended it for another year, flouting a direct appeal from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Than Shwe. Suu Kyi continues to be imprisoned under the 1975 State Protection Act (Article 10 b), which grants the government the power to imprison persons for up to five years without a trial.
  • On 9 June 2006, Suu Kyi was hospitalised with severe diarrhea and weakness, as reported by a UN representative for National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. Such claims were rejected by Major-General Khin Yi, the national police chief of Myanmar.
  • On 11 November 2006, USG Gambari, who was undertaking a mission to Burma for four days to encourage greater respect for human rights there, met with Suu Kyi. According to Gambari, Suu Kyi seems in good health but she wishes to meet her doctor more regularly. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi, as it released 2,831 prisoners, including 40 political prisoners, on 1 January 2007.
  • On 18 January 2007, the state-run paper The New Light of Myanmar accused Suu Kyi of tax evasion for spending her Nobel Prize money outside of the country. The accusation followed the defeat of a US-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Myanmar as a threat to international security.
  • On 25 May 2007, Myanmar extended Suu Kyi's detention for yet another year which would keep her confined to her residence for a fifth straight year.
  • On 30 September 2007, in relation to rising political unrest in Myanmar, a United Nations emissary spent over an hour meeting with her near her guarded residence.
  • On 2 October 2007 Gambari returned to talk to her again after seeing Than Shwe and other members of the senior leadership in Naypyitaw. State television broadcast Suu Kyi with Gambari, stating that they had met twice. This was Suu Kyi's first appearance in state media in the four years since her current detention began.
  • On 24 October 2007, the anniversary of her 12th year in detention, campaigners announced demonstrations in 12 cities to protest against Burma's continued detention of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
  • On 25 October 2007, talks between Suu Kyi and recently appointed liaison minister Aung Kyi, a senior member of the ruling junta, were reported to be lined up for the near future.
  • 8 November 2007 For the first time in three years Suu Kyi will meet her political allies National League for Democracy along with a government minister on Friday. The ruling junta made the official announcement on state TV and radio just hours after United Nation's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari ended his second visit to Burma. The NLD confirmed that it had received the invitation to hold talks with Ms Suu Kyi. She last met party members in May 2004. The NLD (led by Suu Kyi) won polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.
  • On 27 May 2008, Myanmar extended Suu Kyi's detention for another year - keeping her confined to her residence for a sixth straight year.

Periods under detention

2007 anti-government protests

Protests led by Buddhist monks began on 19 August 2007 following steep fuel price increases, and continued each day, despite the threat of a crackdown by the military.

On Saturday, 22 September 2007, although still under house arrest, Suu Kyi made a brief public appearance at the gate of her residence in Yangon to accept the blessings of Buddhist monks who were marching in support of human rights.

It was reported that she had been moved the following day to Insein Prison (where she had been detained in 2003), but meetings with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari near her Yangon home on 30 September and 2 October established that she remained under house arrest.

International support

World leaders

  • On May 16, 2007, 59 world leaders released a letter demanding Myanmar's military government free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. The signatories include all three surviving former US presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton; former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher; Nobel Peace laureate and former President of Poland Lech Wałęsa; Nobel Peace laureate and former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung; as well as TIME Woman of the Year and former Philippine president Corazon Aquino amongst many others.
  • After her confinement was again extended, current Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that "the sooner restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures are lifted, the sooner Burma will be able to move towards inclusive national reconciliation, and the restoration of democracy and full respect for human rights.
  • On May 30, 2007, the Philippine government led members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in calling on Myanmar's military leaders to reverse their decision to extend the house arrest of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In a statement, Philippine foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo said "The Philippines joins the call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners [in Myanmar]." "The Philippines deeply regrets the Myanmar government's decision to extend her house arrest. We urge the Myanmar government to reconsider its decision." It was the first time that a Philippine government official has called on all other Asian leaders to rally behind Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • On 13 June 2007 Members of both Houses of the Indian Parliament wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi on the occasion of her 62nd birthday. The parliamentarians led by veteran Gandhian and Rajya Sabha member Nirmala Deshpande wrote among other things: "You are the true prime minister of Myanmar."
  • In his book, "Courage: Eight Portraits" (Bloomsbury), British Prime Minister Gordon Brown states: "So Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her own happiness and a comfortable life so that, through her struggle, she might win the right of an entire nation to seek happy and comfortable lives. It is the absolute expression of selflessness. Paradoxically, in sacrificing her own liberty, she strengthens its cry and bolsters its claim for the people she represents."
  • In December 2007, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously 400-0 to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal; the Senate concurred on 2008-04-25. On May 6, 2008, President Bush signed legislation awarding Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal.. She is the first recipient in American history to receive the prize while imprisoned. Other non-American recipients of the medal include Sir Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa.
  • On January 25, 2008, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered a speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi to bring about political and economic stability and full democratization in Southeast Asia.
  • On June 18, 2006 a petition signed by 432 eminent citizens of Burma's northern neighbour Bangladesh demanded the Burmese junta end persecution of democratic forces and release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The signatories to the petition included former Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina and different socio-cultural, professional, and rights organisations, civil society leaders and editors of national dailies and weeklies.

Government officials

Nobel Peace Prize

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The decision of the Nobel Committee mentions:


Samak Sundaravej. Prime Minister of Thailand, told reporters on August 25, 2008 that "Europe uses Aung San Suu Kyi as a tool. If it's not related to Aung San Suu Kyi, you can have deeper discussions with Myanmar."



  • Freedom Now, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization, was retained in 2006 by a member of her family to help secure Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest. The organization successfully secured a positive judgment from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and has been conducting political and public relations advocacy on her behalf.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi has been an honorary board member of International IDEA and ARTICLE 19 since her detention, and has received support from these organisations.
  • The Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université Catholique de Louvain, both located in Belgium, have granted her the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.
  • In June of each year, the US Campaign for Burma organizes hundreds of "Arrest Yourself" house parties around the world in support of Aung San Suu Kyi. At these parties, the organizers keep themselves under house arrest for 24 hours, invite their friends, and learn more about Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • The Freedom Campaign, a joint effort between the Human Rights Action Center and US Campaign for Burma, looks to raise worldwide attention to the struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.
  • St. Hugh's College, Oxford, where she studied, had a Burmese theme for their annual ball in support of her in 2006.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is the official patron of The Rafto Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway. She received the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize in 1990.
  • She was made an honorary free person of the City of Dublin, Ireland in November 1999, although a space has been left on the roll of signatures to symbolize her continued detention.
  • In November 2005 the human rights group Equality Now proposed Aung Sun Suu Kyi as a potential candidate, among other qualifying women, for the position of U.N. Secretary General. In the proposed list of qualified women Suu Kyi is recognised by Equality Now as the Prime Minister-Elect of Burma.
  • The United Nations's special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, met Aung San Suu Kyi on March 10, 2008 before wrapping up his trip to the military-ruled country.

The Bommersvik Declarations

In Bommersvik, Sweden, in 1995 and 2002, two conventions of the Elected Representatives of the Union of Burma took place and the following two landmark declarations were issued:

Bommersvik Declaration I

In 1995, during the first convention that lasted from 16-23 July, the Representatives issued the Bommersvik Declaration I:

Bommersvik Declaration II

In 2002, during the second convention that lasted from 25 February to 1 March, the Representatives issued the Bommersvik Declaration II:



  • Letters from Burma (1998) with Fergal Keane ISBN 978-0140264036
  • The Voice of Hope (1998) with Alan Clements, ISBN 978-1888363838, fully updated and re-issued in October 2008 by Rider Books, ISBN 9781846041433
  • Freedom from Fear and Other Writings (1995) with Vaclav Havel, Desmond M. Tutu, and Michael Aris, ISBN 978-0140253177
  • Der Weg zur Freiheit (1999) with U Kyi Maung, U Tin Oo, ISBN 978-3404614356
  • Letter to Daniel: Despatches from the Heart (1996) by Fergal Keane, foreword by Aung San Suu Kyi, edited by Tony Grant ISBN 978-0140262896
  • Burma's Revolution of the Spirit: The Struggle for Democratic Freedom and Dignity (1994) with Alan Clements, Leslie Kean, The Dalai Lama, Sein Win ISBN 978-0893815806
  • Aung San of Burma: A Biographical Portrait by His Daughter (1991) ISBN 978-1870838801, 2nd edition 1995
  • Aung San (Leaders of Asia Series) (1990) ISBN 978-9990288834
  • Burma and India: Some aspects of intellectual life under colonialism (1990) ISBN 978-8170231349
  • Bhutan (Let's Visit Series) (1986) ISBN 978-0222010995
  • Nepal (Let's Visit Series) (1985) ISBN 978-0222009814
  • Burma (Let's Visit Series) (1985) ISBN 978-0222009791


Mentioned in

  • Aung San Suu Kyi (Modern Peacemakers) (2007) by Judy L. Hasday, ISBN 978-0791094358
  • The Lady: Aung San Suu Kyi: Nobel Laureate and Burma's Prisoner (2002) by Barbara Victor, ISBN 978-0571211777, or 1998 hardcover: ISBN 978-0571199440
  • Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi (2007) by Justin Wintle, ISBN 978-0091796815
  • Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006) by David Wallechinsky, ISBN 978-0060590048
  • Aung San Suu Kyi (Trailblazers of the Modern World) (2004) by William Thomas, ISBN 978-0836852639
  • No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2002) by Naomi Klein ISBN 978-0312421434
  • Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics: Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (ILCAA Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Monograph Series) (1999) by Gustaaf Houtman, ISBN 978-4872977486
  • Hidden Agendas(1998)by John Pilger
  • Aung San Suu Kyi: Standing Up for Democracy in Burma (Women Changing the World) (1998) by Bettina Ling ISBN 978-1558611979
  • Aung San Suu Kyi: Fearless Voice of Burma (Newsmakers Biographies Series) (1997) by Whitney Stewart, ISBN 978-0822549314
  • Prisoner for Peace: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Democracy (Champions of Freedom Series) (1994) by John Parenteau, ISBN 978-1883846053
  • Des femmes prix Nobel de Marie Curie à Aung San Suu Kyi, 1903-1991 (1992) by Charlotte Kerner, Nicole Casanova, Gidske Anderson, ISBN 978-2721004277
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, towards a new freedom (1998) by Chin Geok Ang ISBN 978-9814024303
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's struggle: Its principles and strategy (1997) by Mikio Oishi ISBN 978-9839861068
  • Finding George Orwell in Burma (2004) by Emma Larkin ISBN 0143037110
  • ''Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember by John McCain, Mark Salter (Random House, October 2005) ISBN 1-4000-6412-0


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