Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Remembering Aung San Suu Kyi- The greatest campaigner of Democracy

Today is the 12th anniversaty of the day when Aung San Suu Kyi was detained by the military Junta. Let's take this opputunity to know this living legend.

Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese: ; MLCTS: aung hcan: cu. krany; IPA: [àuɴ sʰáɴ sṵ tʃì][6]); born 19 June 1945 in Yangon (Rangoon), is a pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and a noted prisoner of conscience and advocate of nonviolent resistance. A Buddhist, Suu Kyi won the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and in 1991 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1992 she was awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru peace price of Government of India for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. She is currently under detention, with the Myanmar government repeatedly extending her detention. According to the results of the 1990 general election, Suu Kyi earned the right to be Prime Minister, as leader of the winning National League for Democracy party, but her detention by the military junta prevented her from assuming that role.
She is frequently called Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; Daw is not part of her name, but an honorific similar to madam for older, revered women, literally meaning "aunt".[7] Strictly speaking, she has only the one name, though it is acceptable to refer to her as "Ms. Suu Kyi" or Dr. Suu Kyi, since those syllables serve to distinguish her from her father.

Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945. Her father, Aung San, negotiated Burma's independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, and was assassinated by his rivals in the same year. She grew up with her mother, Khin Kyi, and two brothers, Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo in Rangoon. Aung San Lin drowned in a pool accident when Suu Kyi was eight. Suu Kyi was educated in English Catholic schools for much of her childhood in Burma.

Khin Kyi (Ma Khin Kyi) gained prominence as a political figure in the newly-formed Burmese government. Ma Khin Kyi was appointed as Burmese ambassador to India in 1960, and Aung San Suu Kyi followed her there, graduating from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi in 1964.[8]

She continued her education at St Hugh's College, Oxford, obtaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1969 and a Ph.D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 1985. She also worked for the government of the Union of Myanmar. In 1972, Aung San Suu Kyi married Dr. Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture, living abroad in Bhutan. The following year she gave birth to first son, Alexander, in London; and in 1977 she had her second son, Kim.

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to take care of her ailing mother. By coincidence, in that year, the long-time leader of the socialist ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down, leading to mass demonstrations for democratisation on August 8, 1988 (8-8-88, a day seen as favorable), which were violently suppressed. A new military junta took power.

Heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence[9][10] , Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratisation, helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988, and was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. She was offered freedom if she would leave the country, but she refused.

One of her most famous speeches is the "Freedom From Fear" speech, which begins:

“ It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. ”

In 1990, the military junta called a general election, which the National League for Democracy won decisively. Being the NLD's candidate, Aung San Suu Kyi under normal circumstances would have assumed the office of Prime Minister.[11] Instead, the results were nullified, and the military refused to hand over power. This resulted in an international outcry. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. During her arrest, she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990, and the Nobel Peace Prize the year after. Her sons Alexander and Kim accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf. Aung San Suu Kyi used the Nobel Peace Prize's 1.3 million USD prize money to establish a health and education trust for the Burmese people.
* The military government released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in July 1995 but made it clear that if she left the country to visit her family in the United Kingdom, it would not allow her return.
* When her husband, Michael Aris, a British citizen, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, the Burmese government denied him an entry visa. Aung San Suu Kyi remained in Burma, and never again saw her husband, who died in March 1999. She remains separated from her children, who live in the United Kingdom.[12]
* The junta continually prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from meeting with her party supporters or international visitors.
* In 1998, academic and journalist Maurizio Giuliano, after holding several meetings with her, was asked to leave the country and not allowed to enter again.[13]
* In September 2000, the junta put her under house arrest again.
* On 6 May 2002, following secret confidence-building negotiations led by the United Nations, the government released her; a government spokesman said that she was free to move "because we are confident that we can trust each other". Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed "a new dawn for the country".
* However on 30 May 2003, a government-sponsored mob attacked her caravan in the northern village of Depayin, murdering and wounding many of her supporters.[14] Aung San Suu Kyi fled the scene with the help of her driver, Ko Kyaw Soe Lin, but was arrested upon reaching Ye-U. The government imprisoned her at Insein Prison in Yangon.
* After she underwent a hysterectomy in September 2003,[15] the government again placed her under house arrest in Yangon.

* In March 2004, Razali Ismail, UN special envoy to Myanmar, met with Aung San Suu Kyi. Ismail resigned from his post the following year, partly because he was denied re-entry to Myanmar on several occasions.[16]

* On 28 May 2004, the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary Detention rendered an Opinion (No. 9 of 2004) that her deprivation of liberty was arbitrary, as being in contravention of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, and requested that the authorities in Burma set her free, but the authorities have so far ignored this request.[17]

* On 28 November 2005, the National League for Democracy confirmed that Suu Kyi's house arrest would be extended for yet another year. Many Western countries, as well as the United Nations, have expressed their disapproval of this latest extension.

* On 20 May 2006, Ibrahim Gambari, UN Undersecretary-General (USG) of Department of Political Affairs, met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the first visit by a foreign official since 2004.[18] Suu Kyi's house arrest term was set to expire 27 May 2006, but the Burmese government extended it for another year,[19] flouting a direct appeal from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Than Shwe. Suu Kyi continues to be imprisoned under the 1975 State Protection Act (Article 10 b), which grants the government the power to imprison persons for up to five years without a trial.[20]

* On 9 June 2006, Suu Kyi was hospitalised with severe diarrhea and weakness, as reported by a UN representative for National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.[21] Such claims were rejected by Major-General Khin Yi, the national police chief of Myanmar.

* On 11 November 2006, USG Gambari, who was undertaking a mission to Myanmar for four days to encourage greater respect for human rights there, met with Suu Kyi. According to Gambari, Suu Kyi seems in good health but she wishes to meet her doctor more regularly.[22] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi, as it released 2,831 prisoners, including 40 political prisoners, on 1 January 2007.[23]

* On 18 January 2007, the state-run paper The New Light of Myanmar accused Suu Kyi of tax evasion for spending her Nobel Prize money outside of the country. The accusation followed the defeat of a US-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Myanmar as a threat to international security.[24]

* On 25 May 2007, Myanmar extended Suu Kyi's detention for yet another year which would keep her confined to her residence for a fifth straight year.[25]

* On 30 September 2007, in relation to rising political unrest in Myanmar, a United Nations emissary spent over an hour meeting with her near her guarded residence.

* On 2 October 2007 Gambari returned to talk to her again after seeing Than Shwe and other members of the senior leadership in Naypyitaw.[26] State television broadcast Suu Kyi with Gambari, stating that they had met twice. This was Suu Kyi's first appearance in state media in the four years since her current detention began.[27]

* On October 24, 2007, the anniversary of her 12th year in detention, campaigners announced demonstrations in 12 cities to protest against Burma's continued detention of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.