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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. (r)
Aung San Suu Kyi
Burmese Opposition Leader
Born: 1945; Rangoon, Burma
Education: Degree, St. Hugh's College, Oxford, England
Family: Husband, Michael Aris; 2 sons
Early Years: Daughter of Aung San, military general who led Burma to
independence from Britain in 1940s; Spent much of
her adult life outside Burma; Returned only to be with her
ill mother, 1988.
Political Career: Chosen leader of Burmese opposition movement, 1988;
Placed under house arrest by military regime, 1989; Nobel
Peace Prize, 1991; Released from custody,
1995; Has headed BurmaÄs democratic
reform movement since the late 1980s; Spent
six years under house arrest; Because of her
political activities the ruling military junta has
continuously confined her or restrained her
activities, but because the junta conducted a
campaign to lure foreign investment and
international aid it has had to release her
because attacks by the international
community on their human rights record
jeopardized their plans for economic development.
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world's most famous
was born in 1945 in Rangoon, Burma. Her father was the
general and political leader Aung San, who is regarded
as the founder
of modern Burma.. With the outbreak of World War II,
Burma with the Japanese to gain his country's
Britain. Later, when the tide of the war changed, he
switched sides and
allied himself with the British. General Aung San was
1947. Aung San Suu Kyi's mother was a diplomat who was
ambassador to India in 1961.
Suu Kyi received her primary schooling in Burma and
education in New Delhi. Upon graduation she was
accepted at Oxford,
where she received her degree in the early 1960s.
After graduation she
worked for the United Nations in New York. Suu Kyi
scholar Michael Aris, a professor of Tibetan studies,
in 1972 despite
strong Burmese objections to interracial marriages.
She stayed at
Oxford for several years pursuing an advanced degree
and had two
children. Suu Kyi studied Japanese so she could
conduct research for a
biography of her father. In 1985 she won a fellowship
to the University
of Kyoto to study her father's wartime ties to Japan.
Suu Kyi had spent most of her adult life
outside of Burma, only making short trips
to her homeland to visit her mother. The
turning point in her life came in 1988. The
assassination of her father had left a
political vacuum filled by General Ne
Win, a military dictator who used
terrorism to rule the country for 26 years.
He closed Burma off from the world and,
through his bizarre brand of socialism, drove the once
country into poverty. Popular discontent and agitation
brought further political repression.
The dictator Ne Win turned over his power to a
military junta known
as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or
SLORC. At that
time, Suu Kyi's mother fell ill and Suu Kyi returned
to Burma. to care
for her. She also planned to open libraries in her
father's name. Instead,
she was thrust into a political role by the tumultuous
current of modern
Burmese politics. The opposition movement drafted Suu
Kyi, and her
dramatic 10-minute speech calling for reform carried
her on a surge of
popularity to become the de facto leader of Burma's
movement and head of the National League for Democracy
Thereafter, between 1988 and mid-1989, she incited
crowds with her
call for nonviolent revolution against what she termed
government" in power.
To ensure her silence, the junta confined Suu Kyi
under military guard
to her Rangoon home. She remained under house arrest
for six years,
cut off from her family and so poor that she became
weak from hunger.
Burma held elections in 1990 and Suu Kyi and her NLD
party won by
a landslide. Still, SLORC refused to relinquish power.
In 1991 Suu Kyi
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, bringing her
attention and support from human-rights groups.
To improve the country's economy, the
junta launched a campaign to lure
international investment and aid.
international community withheld
investment and criticized the
human-rights violations. The
between Suu Kyi and the junta
1995, when SLORC denied she was
under house arrest and stated
could leave Burma any time she
That summer, Aung San Suu Kyi stepped out of her home.
refused to leave.
Since then, she has continued her role as opposition
meetings and making public appearances and speeches.
continued to suppress the democracy movement,
restricting freedom of
speech of NLD party members and activists. In December
Burma (called Myanmar by the junta) was condemned by
General Assembly for human rights violations.
[CNN Plus, 27 May 1997].
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