Aung San Suu Kyi is a human rights activist and politician from Burma. The daughter of the de facto prime minister of British Burma, who was assassinated in 1947, Aung studied abroad in her early years, obtaining a bachelors degree from the University of Oxford in 1969.
She returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her dying mother, and following that her life changed forever. The then-dictator of Burma U Ne Win imprisoned anyone who protested his government. Aung spoke out against him and began a non-violent movement to achieve democracy in Burma. In 1989, however, she was placed under house arrest, and spent many years in custody.
The Burmese government told Suu Kyi if she agreed to leave the country they would free her, but she refused to do so. She insisted that her struggle would continue until the government lets its citizens participate in the government. In 1990, a parliamentary election was held, but the government ignored the results. She was released from house arrest in July 1995, and the next year she attended the National League for Democracy party congress. Later on, she founded a representative committee and declared it as the country’s legitimate ruling body, and in response, in 2000 the government once again placed her under house arrest. She was released in May of 2002. In 2003, her party fought in the streets with pro-government demonstrators, and Suu Kyi was once again arrested and placed under house arrest. Her sentence was renewed yearly.
In May of 2009, she was arrested again, and was charged with allowing an intruder to spend two nights at her home, a violation of her terms of house arrest. Later in 2009, the United Nations declared that Suu Kyi’s detention was illegal, under Myanmar law. In August, however, Suu Kyi went to trial, and was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The sentence was reduced to 18 months, however, and she was allowed to serve it as a continuation of her house arrest.
Suu Kyi told news reporters after a speech she made in 2012 that, “In some ways I don’t think they did anything to me. They placed me under house arrest, but that gave me time to read.” She added, “Sometimes when my schedule is very hectic, I look back with some nostalgia” at the nearly twenty years she was confined to her home. She said her country need “reconciliation, not retribution,” as it moves toward democracy. Suu Kyi makes the claim that her country needs forgiveness as something that is essential for everyone to understand and recognize.
In November 2011, the National League for Democracy, NLD, announced that it would re-register as a political party, and in January 2012, Suu Kyi formally registered to run for a seat in parliament. On April 1, 2012, following an exhausting campaign, the NLD announced that she had won the election. On May 2, 2012, Suu Kyi took her oath and took office.
Suu Kyi has been awarded numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was given in 1991. She is an example of someone who did not seek high praise or accolades; she is just one person who did what she thought was right. She stood up and was ambitious enough to challenge the status quo, something that anyone should strive to do in the face of injustice.
“Aung San Suu Kyi – Facts.” Aung San Suu Kyi – Facts. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1991/kyi-facts.html (accessed November 18, 2013).
A&E Networks Television. “Aung San Suu Kyi biography.” Bio.com. http://www.biography.com/people/aung-san-suu-kyi-9192617?page=1 (accessed November 18, 2013).
Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than fifteen years under house arrest or in prison. Like many other forgiving prisoners in this project, including Nelson Mandela, John Lewis, Vaclav Havel, and many others, Aung San Suu Kyi did not waste her time while in custody. Instead, she worked hard during this time to read, write, study and continue to work for her people. She even won the Nobel Peace Prize (1990) and the US Congressional Gold Medal (2008), among others, while imprisoned.
What makes forgiving prisoners like Aung San Suu Kyi so unique and inspiring is that instead of letting bitterness and hatred consume them and their time in prison, these forgiving prisoners move forward with their work of justice, truth, love and forgiveness. They do not waste time worrying about their own suffering, but allow their love for their people to push them to work harder for truth and justice. They see their time in prison, like all suffering, as an opportunity to grow and work. Their examples remind us that love and forgiveness take work, and not only physical work, but emotional and mental work as well. These forgiving prisoners take the time in prison to cultivate the emotional and mental ability to love and forgive.
Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma’s revolutionary leader who aspires under democracy a healthy balance between freedom and security. Not the freedoms that will make others feel insecure but freedom to act but not forget the needs of others. On the other hand we don’t want the security of prison where you aren’t free. She was able to resist the power of one of the world’s most brutal military regimes for the past 22 years. She was able to escape death for several times: first in 1989 she faced down the guns of soldiers following orders of shooting her on spot ; second few years later she survived a hunger strike in order to release her fellow colleague from prison; last in 2003 she escaped an assassination attempt while on the campaign trail. Her determination to establish democracy in Burma puts her along with Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Behind this story of political activism lays personal sacrifice. During the two decades of house arrest in Rangoon, her two sons were growing up in England and her husband died in 1999 without being allowed to say goodbye. After she was arrested she was given a choice to leave the country and be free or prison but she chose to fight for democracy of her country. She sacrificed her personal life in struggle to liberate her country.