Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi, 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.

House arrest

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 piano.

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 Michael Aris.

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 the country.

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.

Overseas life

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 in 1991
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

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