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Aung San Suu Kyi Biography: Birth, Age, Early Life, Education, Husband, Political Career, House Arrest and More

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author and Nobel laureate. She was detained by Myanmar's military in a pre-dawn raid on 1 February 2021 in response to election fraud.
Created On: Feb 3, 2021 08:49 IST
Modified On: Feb 3, 2021 09:39 IST
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author and Nobel laureate. She was detained by Myanmar's military in a pre-dawn raid on 1 February 2021 in response to election fraud. In this article, we have mentioned about her early life, education, political career and more. 

Birth 19 June 1945 in Rangoon, British Burma 
Age 75 years
Parents Aung San (father)
Khin Kyi (mother)
Alma Mater University of Delhi (B.A.)
University of Oxford (B.A., M.A.)
SOAS University of London (M.Phil.)
Profession Politician
Political Party National League for Democracy (NLD)
Spouse Dr. Michael Aris (died 27 March 1999)
Children  Alexandar Aris 
Kim Aris
Awards Nobel Peace Prize
Congressional Gold Medal
Jawaharlal Nehru Award
International Simón Bolívar Prize
Rafto Prize
Sakharov Prize
Olof Palme Prize
Bhagwan Mahavir World Peace

Aung San Suu Kyi: Birth, Early Life and Education

Birth: Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945 in Rangoon, British Burma (present-day Yangon, Myanmar) to Aung San (father) Khin Kyi (mother). 

Name: Like other Burmese names, her name too doesn't have a surname. Aung San Suu Kyi is a personal name and is derived from the names of three people-- Aung San from her father, Suu from her paternal grandmother and Kyi from her mother. She is also referred to as Daw Suu (Aunt Suu) or Amay Suu (Mother Suu) by the Burmese. 

Family: Her father Aung San allied with the Japanese amid World War II and founded modern Burmese army. In 1947, he negotiated Burma's independence from the United Kingdom and was assassinated by his rivals the same year. 

Aung San Suu Kyi grew up with his mother and two brothers-- Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo. Aung San Lin died at the age of eight after he drowned in an ornamental lake while Aung San Oo emigrated and became a US citizen. In 1960, her mother was appointed as the Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal.  

Education: Aung San Suu Kyi received her initial education at Methodist English High School (present-day Basic Education High School No. 1 Dagon). She was later admitted in Convent of Jesus and Mary School, New Delhi. In 1964, she graduated with a degree in Politics from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. 

From St. Hugh's College, Oxford, she obtained a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1967 and an M.A. degree in Politics in 1968.  From 1985 to 1987, Aung San Suu Kyi worked towards an M.Phil. degree in Burmese literature as a research student at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 

Honorary Fellow: In 1990, she was elected as an Honorary Fellow at St. Hugh, Oxford. She was also appointed as a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Shimla, India. 

Aung San Suu Kyi: Personal Life

After her graduation, Aung San Suu Kyi started living in New York City with a family friend Ma Than E, who was once a famous Burmese Pop Singer. 

Marriage: On 1 January 1972, Aung San Suu Kyi married a scholar of Tibetan Culture and Literature, Dr. Michael Aris. The couple gave birth to Alexandar Aris (son) the following year and in 1977 to Kim Aris.   

Death of Husband: In 1977, her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and died on his 53rd birthday on 27 March 1999. He last met Aung San Suu Kyi on Christmas in 1995 and only met her for five-time since 1989 (when she was first placed under house arrest). On 13 November 2010, Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. 

Aung San Suu Kyi: Career

United Nations: Aung San Suu Kyi worked at the United Nations (UN) for three years on budget matters. She also worked for the government of the Union of Burma. 

Return to Burma and pro-democracy movement: In 1988, she returned to Burma to see her ailing mother and then to lead the pro-democracy movement upon the request of the people after the leader of Burma and head of the ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down. Mass demonstrations for democracy followed, which were violently suppressed in the 8888 Uprising (18 August 1988). 

First public address: On 26 August 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed half a million people at a mass rally in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda and called for a democratic government. However, in September that year, a new military junta took the power of Myanmar. 

Formation of  National League for Democracy (NLD) and house arrest: On 27 September 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) but was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. During her time under house arrest, she devoted herself to Buddhist meditation practises and studied Buddhist thought. 

During the crisis, the previous democratically elected Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu initiated to form an interim government and invited opposition leaders to join him. However, Aung San Suu Kyi rejected his proposal.

1990 General Elections: In 1990, General Elections were conducted and NLD won 80% of the parliament seats. However, the results were nullified and the military refused to hand over power which resulted in an international outcry. 

House arrest and Nobel Peace Prize: Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest at her home on University Avenue. During this period, she was awarded Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. Her sons Alexander and Kim accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf and used the US$1.3 million prize money to establish a health and education trust for the Burmese people.

1996 Attack: On 9 November 1996, the motorcade that she was travelling in with other NLD leaders Tin Oo and Kyi Maung were attacked in Yangon. Approximately, 200 men swooped down and attacked the motorcade. Her car had its rear window smashed while the car with Tin Oo and Kyi Maung had its rear window and two backdoor windows shattered. 

House Arrest: Since the beginning of her political career, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a total 15 years over a 21-year period, on numerous occasions. During her house arrest, she was prevented from meeting her party supporters and international visitors. Media was not allowed to visit her during this time.

Permission to leave Burma: Once under house arrest, Suu Kyi was granted permission to leave Burma to never return-- a proposal which she rejected. She stated, "As a mother, the greater sacrifice was giving up my sons, but I was always aware of the fact that others had given up more than me. I never forget that my colleagues who are in prison suffer not only physically, but mentally for their families who have no security outside- in the larger prison of Burma under authoritarian rule."

Aung San Suu Kyi's release: On 12 November 2010, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won elections which were conducted after a gap of 20 years. The military junta finally agreed to sign orders allowing Aung San Suu Kyi's release, her house arrest term came to an end on 13 November 2010.

House arrest: However, on 1 February 2021, in a pre-dawn raid, she was detained by Myanmar's military in response to election fraud. 

United Nations Involvement

2003 attack: The United Nations (UN) facilitated a dialogue between the Junta and Aung San Suu Kyi. On 6 May 2002, she was released after the negotiations and was free to move. However, on 30 May 2003, a mob attacked her caravan in the northern village of Depayin-- an incident similar to 1996 attack-- murdering and injuring many of her supporters. She managed to flee from the scene with the help of her driver but was arrested upon reaching Ye-U and was kept at Insein Prison in Rangoon. 

Request by UN: The United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention published an Opinion that Aung San Suu Kyi's detention was deprived of liberty and in contravention of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and requested Burmese authorities to set her free. However, the request was ignored at that time citing: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not been arrested, but has only been taken into protective custody, for her own safety. 

Tax evasion: On 18 January 2007, the state-run New Light of Myanmar accused her of tax evasion for spending her Nobel Prize money outside Myanmar. After this accusation, the United Nations Security Council's resolution to condemn Burma as a threat to international security was defeated due to strong opposition from China. 

Permission to meet political allies: In November 2007, junta officially announced on state-run TV and radio that Aung San Suu Kyi is allowed to meet her political allies of National League for Democracy along with a Government Minister. NLD also confirmed the invitation to hold talks with her. 

On 3 July 2009, UN  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi but was disappointed after the then junta leader Than Shwe refused him to visit her, citing her ongoing trial. 

2007 Anti-government protests

On 19 August 2007, Buddhist monks took to the street to protest against high fuel prices, despite the military crackdown threat. On 22 September 2007, Aung San Suu Kyi who was still under house arrest, accepted the blessings of Buddhist monks who were marching in support of human rights, making a brief public appearance at the gate of her residence. 

2009 Trespass incident

John Yettaw: On 3 May 2009, an American man John Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake to her house uninvited and was arrested when he made his return trip three days later. On 13 May 2009, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested for violating the terms of her house arrest as the swimmer stayed in her house for two days. She was imprisoned at  Insein Prison. On 18 May 2009, the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and her two maids began. On 11 August 2009, she was sentenced to imprisonment for three years with hard labour.

The main culprit: Diplomats and journalists were barred from attending the trial, however, on one occasion, diplomats from Russia, Thailand and Singapore met her along with some journalists. Days after her arrest, the national police commissioner confirmed that Yettaw was the "main culprit" in the case filed against Aung San Suu Kyi. Her arrest and trial received worldwide condemnation.

Request by the then US President: On 18 August 2009, US President Barack Obama requested Myanmar's military leadership to set all political prisoner free. 

International Support for release

Congressional Gold Medal: Aung San Suu Kyi received worldwide support including Europe, Australia, North and South America, India and Japan. In December 2007, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to award the Congressional Gold Medal to her. On 6 May 2008, President George W. Bush signed legislation awarding Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal after which she became the first recipient in America's history to receive the prize while imprisoned. 

Human rights situation in Burma: The United Nations (UN) also urged Myanmar for the inclusion of national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy, and full respect for human rights. In December 2008, a resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly to condemn the human rights situation in Burma and called for her release. 

2010 General Elections and her release

US-ASEAN Summit of 2009: During the US-ASEAN Summit of 2009, US President Barack Obama personally advocated the release of all political prisoners, especially Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Barred from contesting the elections: Prior to 2010 Burmese General Elections, it was announced that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released to organize her political party. However, she was barred from contesting the elections. On 13 November 2010, she was released from the house arrest. 

2012 by-elections and Nobel acceptance speech

Attended the Parliament: On 18 January 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi formally registered to contest on Kawhmu Township constituency-- a House of Representatives seat. On 1 April 2012, she won the seat, becoming  Leader of the Opposition in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. On 2 May 2012, she along with other NLD MP-elects took their oaths and took office. On 9 July 2012, she attended the Parliament for the first time as a lawmaker. 

Nobel acceptance speech: Two decades after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi finally delivered her Nobel acceptance speech on 16 June 2012 at Oslo City Hall. In September 2012, she received the US Congressional Gold Medal in person. 

Forbes Most Powerful Women: In 2014, she was listed as the 61st Most Powerful Women in the world by Forbes. 

2015 General Elections: On 6 July 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi announced on the World Economic Forum's website that she wanted to run for the presidency in the 2015 General Elections. However, the current Constitution of Myanmar (came into effect in 2008), bars her from running for the presidency as she is a widow and mother of foreigners. 

The victory of NLD: The NLD won a sweeping victory in those elections-- 255 seats in the House of Representatives and 135 seats in the House of Nationalities. She was also re-elected to the House of Representatives. 

State Counsellor (2016–2021): On 20 March 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi became the Minister for the President's Office, for Foreign Affairs, for Education and for Electric Power and Energy in President Htin Kyaw's government. She later relinquished the latter two Ministries. President Htin Kyaw appointed her as State Counsellor, akin to Prime Minister, which was approved by both the Houses. 

Foreign Minister (2016–2021): As soon as she became the Foreign Minister, she invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and discussed to have good diplomatic relationships with these countries.  

Amnesty to students: After accepting her role as a State Counsellor, she granted amnesty to the students who were arrested for opposing the National Education Bill. She announced the creation of the commission on Rakhine State. The Rakhine State has a long record of persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority. However, she did not manage with ethnic conflicts in Shan and Kachin states (thousand of refugees fled to China). 

Ethnic Cleansing: By the year 2017, the persecution of the Rohingya by the government forces escalated. In an interview, Aung San Suu Kyi denied allegations of ethnic cleansing but also refused to grant citizenship to Rohingya and took steps to issue ID cards to them for residency. 

Revocation of Peace Prize:  In 2017, critics while responding to increased violence against Rohingya Muslims and Refugees, called for her prize to be revoked, citing her silence on the issue. 

George Monbiot called on the readers of The Guardian to sign a change.org petition to have Nobel Peace Prize due to her silence on the matter. However, as per the Nobel Foundation, there existed no provision for revoking a Nobel Prize.

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