Political Powerhouses: Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi was born into politics. Her father was the well known independence General Aung San, who was assassinated when she was only two years old. Her mother was also involved in politics, serving as the first Minister of Social Welfare and Myanmar’s (then Burma) ambassador to India. Suu Kyi herself studied economics, politics and philosophy at Oxford University in London.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she lived in a number of different countries with her husband and children. She returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her ill mother. At this time the country was under the control of dictator U Ne Win. He oversaw the murder of protestors and those who spoke out against him. Suu Kyi would not be silenced and immediately upon her return began speaking out against his rule. She focused her speeches on the many human rights abuses that were happening countrywide. She was inspired by the peaceful protests of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and organised peaceful protests and rallies around the country.

Within a year she was placed under house arrest.

The military gave her the option to be freed from house arrest, but in return she would be forced to leave the country. She chose to stay. In 1990 an election was held which saw her party, the National League for Democracy, win 80% of the vote. The results of the election were ignored by the military junta. She was released from house arrest in 1995 but was re-arrested in 2000. After two years she was released again, but in 2003 she was placed in prison. During much of this time she was in solitary confinement.

In 2010 more elections–the first since 1990–took place. Aung San Suu Kyi was released 6 days later. In 2012 she decided to run for office, was successful, and took her seat in May of 2012. Another election took place in 2015 which saw the NLD win by a landslide. As both her children are British nationals, she was unable to become leader of the country (Myanmar’s constitution forbids it). In 2016, to give her more of a say in the decision making of the country, the role of State Counsellor was created especially for her.

For her decades of hard work fighting for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has been honoured with many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Gold Medal.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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