Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

The Nobel Peace Prize-winner was elected prime minister of Myanmar in 1990, but she had been placed under house arrest before the elections took place. She has basically stayed there ever since


Aung San Suu Kyi_L
Artwork by Terry Pontikos


Quick Facts

Profession: politician, democracy activist

Famous for: peacefully struggling for democracy in Myanmar

Born: June 19, 1945, Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma (now Myanmar)

Married: Michael Aris


The early years

Find words that mean: official representative, discussed and achieved, lured, certain to happen

Aung San Suu Kyi was one of three children. She had an elder brother and a younger brother. Her younger brother drowned when he was just eight. Her father was killed when she was two. He was famous for founding the modern Burmese army. He also negotiated Burma's independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Suu Kyi studied in Rangoon until 1960. That year, her mother became the Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal. Suu Kyi moved to India with her mother and attended university in New Delhi. After graduating, she was accepted into Oxford University in Britain where she met Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture.

In 1992, Suu Kyi and Aris married. They had two children, and in 1985 she completed a PhD at the School of Oriental African Studies.

But given her family background, it was inevitable Suu Kyi would be drawn away from academics and into politics in her homeland.

"Fear is not the natural state of civilised people"

Honoured behind walls

Choose the right option

In 1990, while still under house arrest, Suu Kyi was the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In 1991, she won the Nobel Peace Prize. She could not collect the prizes herself - the military government has made it clear that if she leaves Myanmar, she will not be allowed to come back.

This meant when her husband got cancer in 1997, it was to visit him. He could not visit her because the government him a visa. Aris died in March, 1999. Suu Kyi had not seen him since 1995.

Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest. Her was extended last year after an American man broke into her homes. Nobody is sure why he did it. He swam to her home across a lake, and asked if he could rest there. But the terms of Suu Kyi's arrest prevent her from having .

Myanmar is due to have some time this year - the date has not been set. It is possible that Suu Kyi may be freed to help her party prepare. But the government says she will not be allowed to run herself.

Election and imprisonment

Find words that mean the opposite: free, healthy, unlucky, observed

In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma to take care of her ailing mother. That year, the long-ruling dictator of Burma, Ne Win, stepped down. On August 8, 1988 - 88/8/8, a very auspicious number for Burmese - half a million people protested in Rangoon. They called for democracy. Suu Kyi joined them, and made a speech to the crowd.

Burma's leaders did not listen. The next month, they formed a new military government. Suu Kyi formed the National League for Democracy. The military government put her under house arrest the following year. The government also changed the name of the country to Myanmar.

In general elections in 1990, her party won more than 80 per cent of the vote. She should have become prime minister; instead the government ignored the election and Suu Kyi stayed imprisoned.

True or false?

To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1 Aung San Suu Kyi's father negotiated the independence of Burma.
2 Suu Kyi has a degree from Oxford University.
3 Suu Kyi was put under house arrest after she lost 1990 elections.
4 Suu Kyi has spent all of the past 20 years under house arrest.



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