Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Born: June 19, 1945 in Rangoon, British Burma
Nationality: Burmese
Famous For: Chairperson of the National League for Democracy
Awards: Rafto Prize, Nobel Peace Prize, Jawaharlal Nehru Award, Congressional Gold Medal

Aung San Suu Kyi was born on June 19, 1945 in Rangoon, British Burma. As she is well known for her political career and her democratic views, she received a Rafto award and a Sakharov award for freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to establish a democratic government without the use of violence or military forces.

Early Life

Suu Kyi’s political influence began at an early age. Her father was a key member in the establishment of a modern army, negotiating Burma’s independence from Britiain’s influence. She studied at St Hugh’s College, Oxford where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, Politics and Philosophy. Aung San also graduated from the Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, obtaining a degree in politics.

Early Political Career

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988. During that time, she publicly advocated the establishment of a democratic government during the events of the 8888 Uprising. By the end of September 1988, Aung managed to establish the National League for Democracy, but she was soon placed under house arrest and offered freedom if she left the country. Aung refused.

The 1990 General Election

The National League for Democracy (NLD) managed to get 59% of the votes during the 1990 General Election which guaranteed 80% of the total parliament seats. Suu Kyi was to assume the role of Prime Minister, but due to the refusal to hand over power, the results were nullified and Aung was once again placed under home arrest. Later in the same year, she received the Sakhyrov Award for Freedom of Thought and one year later, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

2007 Protests

In October of 2007, Aung San was already under house arrest for 12 years since 1989. Twelve cities around the world held solidarity protests demanding her release, but the government refused to grant her freedom.

2010 Elections

Aung San Suu Kyi continued to maintain her relationships with the National League for Democracy being recognized as an influential leader. On October 1, 2010, the Burmese government announced that she would be released in order to allow her to organize the NLD for the elections.

This decision was forced by the constant visit of diplomats from democratic countries, including President Barack Obama who personally advocated the release of Suu Kyi. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown addressed a personal letter to Suu Kyi in which he mentioned severe diplomatic consequences if the Burmese government would influence the elections. Due to such pressure coming from democratic leaders, Suu Kyi was released several times during 2009 when she met many heads of state.

Continuing to Lead

On April 1, 2012, Suu Kyi won the vote for a seat in the Parliament. The NLD also received 43 of the 45 contested seats and thus the Opposition was formed by Suu Kyi and her party.

After many years of arrest during which she managed to remain an iconic figure of the democratic movement in Burma, Suu Kyi’s political activity managed to get her elected by the population. Her imprisonment showcased just how much of a threat Suu Kyi represents for a government that refuses to embrace democracy.