Pronunciation: Ong Shan Soo Chee
Meaning of name: A bright collection of strange victories
Nicknames: The Lady. Aunty. The word Daw, which often precedes her full name, means Aunt.
Title: Chairwoman of the National League for Democracy party in Myanmar. Suu Kyi was elected to the nation’s parliament April 1.
Politics: Non-violent pro-democracy activist, political dissident and opposition leader in Myanmar under its repressive military government. Suu Kyi’s political career was launched with mass pro-democracy demonstrations Aug. 8, 1988, which became known as the 8888 Uprising. She was a political prisoner for 15 years over two decades beginning in 1989. Suu Kyi was freed Nov. 13, 2010, as democratic reforms began taking shape under now-President Thein Sein in response to the nation’s extreme poverty and unrest and the international sanctions that had isolated Myanmar.
Family: Suu Kyi’s father was Aung San – the name means victory – a national hero who negotiated Burma’s independence from Great Britain in 1947 and was assassinated by rivals the same year, when Suu Kyi was 2 years old. Her mother, Khin Kyi, was minister of social welfare in the 1950s and ambassador to India and Nepal in the 1960s. Suu Kyi met British scholar Michael Aris while studying at Oxford University. They married in 1972 and had two sons, Alexander and Kim. Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her dying mother. Aris, a writer and lecturer on Asian cultures, died from cancer in 1999 in London. Suu Kyi declined Myanmar’s offer to let her be with him during his illness, fearing she would not be allowed to return to her homeland.
Career: Assistant secretary to a United Nations committee in New York; research officer for Bhutan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visiting scholar for Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies; fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Her National League for Democracy won 82 percent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament in 1990, which likely would have made her the government leader, but election results were thrown out by the military dictatorship.
Books: Include Freedom from Fear, published in 1991; Letters from Burma in 1997; and The Voice of Hope: Conversations, with Alan Clements, 1997.
Quote: The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.
Arrest record: Under house arrest in 1989-1995. 2000-2002, after her attempts to hold political meetings outside the capital, Rangoon. 2003-2010, after Suu Kyi survived an assassination attempt by members of a political party fronting the military rulers. Suu Kyi was scheduled to be freed in 2009 but was convicted of violating conditions of her house arrest after a U.S. citizen swam across a lake, entered her house and refused to leave.
Honors: Rafto Human Rights Prize, in absentia, 1990. Sakharov Prize for human rights, given by the European parliament, in absentia, 1991. Nobel Peace Prize, 1991. Suu Kyi used the $1.3 million prize to establish a health and education trust for Burmese people. In 2007, the state-run newspaper accused her of tax evasion for spending the money outside Myanmar. She received the Nobel in June at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. India’s Jawaharlal Nehru Award for peace and goodwill, in absentia, 1993. U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to Suu Kyi in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, in absentia, 2008. She collected the award Wednesday at a Capitol Hill ceremony.
Sources: Burmacampaign.uk.org; newworldencyclopedia.org;
news reports, Journal Gazette archives