Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi
http://news.bbc.co.uk/, May 2006
Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela,
Aung San Suu Kyi has become an international symbol of heroic
and peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.
For the Burmese people, Aung San Suu Kyi
represents their best and perhaps sole hope that one day there
will be an end to the country's military repression.
As a pro-democracy campaigner and leader
of the opposition National League for Democracy party ( NLD),
she has spent more than 10 of the past 17 years in some form of
detention under Burma's military regime.
In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize for her efforts to bring democracy to Burma.
At the presentation, the Chairman of the
Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Francis Sejested, called her "an
outstanding example of the power of the powerless".
After a period of time overseas, Aung
San Suu Kyi went back to Burma in 1988.
Soon after she returned, she was put under
house arrest in Rangoon for six years, until she was released
in July 1995.
She was again put under house arrest in
September 2000, when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay
in defiance of travel restrictions.
She was released unconditionally in May
2002, but just over a year later she was put in prison following
a clash between her supporters and a government-backed mob.
Following a gynaecological operation in
September 2003, she was allowed to return home - but again under
effective house arrest.
During these periods of confinement, Aung
San Suu Kyi has busied herself studying and exercising.
She has meditated, worked on her French
and Japanese language skills, and relaxed by playing Bach on the
In more recent years, she has also been
able to meet other NLD officials, and selected visiting diplomats
like the United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail.
But during her early years of detention,
Aung San Suu Kyi was often in solitary confinement - and was not
even allowed to see her two sons or her husband, the British academic
In March 1999 she suffered a major personal
tragedy when her husband died of cancer.
The military authorities offered to allow
her to travel to the UK to see him on his deathbed, but she felt
compelled to refuse for fear she would not be allowed back into
Aung San Suu Kyi has often said that detention
has made her even more resolute to dedicate the rest of her life
to represent the average Burmese citizen.
The UN envoy Razali Ismail has said privately
that she is one of the most impressive people he has ever met.
Much of Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal within
Burma lies in the fact she is the daughter of the country's independence
hero General Aung San.
He was assassinated during the transition
period in July 1947, just six months before independence.
Aung San Suu Kyi was only two years old
at the time.
In 1960 she went to India with her mother
Daw Khin Kyi, who had been appointed Burma's ambassador to Delhi.
Four years later she went to Oxford University
in the UK, where she studied philosophy, politics and economics.
There she met her future husband.
After stints of living and working in
Japan and Bhutan, she settled down to be an English don's housewife
and raise their two children, Alexander and Kim.
Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize
But Burma was never far away from her thoughts.
When she arrived back in Rangoon in 1988
-initially to look after her critically ill mother - Burma was
in the midst of major political upheaval.
Thousands of students, office workers
and monks took to the streets demanding democratic reform.
"I could not, as my father's daughter
remain indifferent to all that was going on," she said in
a speech in Rangoon on 26 August 1988.
Aung San Suu Kyi was soon propelled into
leading the revolt against then-dictator General Ne Win.
Inspired by the non-violent campaigns
of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and India's Mahatma
Gandhi, she organised rallies and travelled around the country,
calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections.
But the demonstrations were brutally suppressed
by the army, who seized power in a coup on 18 September 1988.
The military government called national
elections in May 1990.
Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD convincingly won
the polls, despite the fact that she herself was under house arrest
and disqualified from standing.
But the junta refused to hand over control,
and has remained in power ever