Family Profile and Early Biography
Aung San Suu Kyi’s parents had been serving Burma around the time of her birth. Her father fought for the independence of Burma from the British Empire in the late 1940s; her mother also served as Burma’s ambassador to India and Nepal in the 1960s.
Aung San Suu Kyi was born on June 19, 1945, and had two brothers—one drowned at only eight years old, and the other moved to the United States and became a US citizen. Aung San Suu Kyi studied at then–Methodist English High School and was noticed at an early age for her skill and proficiency in learning new languages.
One decade after the establishment of the Independent Union of Burma in 1960, Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother was appointed as the nation’s ambassador to India. Following her mother, she continued to study at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School before moving on to the Lady Shri Ram College.
Marriage and Family
After Aung San Suu Kyi graduated from the Lady Shri Ram College, she continued her studies at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford and graduated in 1969 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. During her time at Oxford, she fell in love with a Pakistani student, Tariq Hyder, but their relationship did not last long; it is said that “it was not well–received by her circle of friends.”
In 1971, about two years after graduating from St Hugh’s College, Aung San Suu Kyi married Aris, a Tibetan culture scholar. They have two sons - Alexander Aris and Kim. Aung San Suu Kyi later became a research student the London School of Oriental and African Studies from 1985 to 1987, where she was accepted as an Honorary Fellow three years later.
Due to her mother’s declining health in Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988. Seeing the condition of the nation following the resignation of Burma’s long-time military leader and ruling party head General Ne Win, she found her way to the top of the pro-democracy movement.
Founding the National League for Democracy
In late September 1988, Suu Kyi founded the National League for Democracy and continued working towards the democratization of Burmese political system. Her efforts in fighting for a free and democratic Burma resulted in her being placed under house arrest in 1989. She was offered freedom if she agreed to leave Burma and promise never to return, and it is an offer she never accepted.
Winning the Nobel Peace Prize
The first great success of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party came in 1990, when the National League for Democracy or NLD gained 82% of the parliament seat in a general election conducted by the Burmese military junta. If only she was permitted, the result could have made Suu Kyi the Prime Minister. The election result was later nullified and not recognized by the military government, which refused to turn over power.
It was also in 1990 that Suu Kyi received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and she was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize only one year later. Her award was accepted by her sons, Alexander and Kim, as she was under house arrest at the time. The Nobel Peace Prize also came with a monetary sum of about $1.3 million and, in 1992, Suu Kyi announced that the money would be used to fund the health and educational trust that she established for the Burmese people.
Visited by Nobel Laureates
In 1993, a group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates visited Burmese refugees on the border of Thailand; they attempted to enter Burma in order to visit Suu Kyi, but were promptly denied. A year later, in 1994, Suu Kyi had her first non-family visitors, which included a United Nation’s representative, a New York congressman, and a New York Times reporter. She was also visited two Burmese military leaders, General Than Shwe and General Khin Nyunt, in 1994.
What was most painful for Suu Kyi was being away from her family while being under house arrest. She had only seen her husband Aris five times since she was put under house arrest in Rangoon in 1989, under the martial law regime. Because of the possibility that she could not return to Burma after leaving, she took a major sacrifice and chose to stay. Her husband, who had been suffering from prostate cancer since 1997, died of the illness in 1999.
Making History in Myanmar and the Whole World
Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for 15 years, starting in 1989 when she was released six years later. On September 2000, she was placed under house arrest for the second time, and was released in 2002 after 19 months. In May 2003, Suu Kyi was placed in secret detention, which would later turn into a third house arrest. The third time was extended three times until 2009, and became the longest time she had experienced. She was released from house arrest once again in November 2010.
“Myanmar's Nelson Mandela”
Because of her commitment and contributions to Myanmar's democratic transformation and the ensuing 15-year battle with house arrest, she was often likened to South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela. Like Suu Kyi, Mandela was also incarcerated for leading ANC, a political party dedicated to ending Apartheid. Mandela, too, was a Nobel Laureate who earned the award for his far-reaching efforts to foster peace in Africa.
Aung San Suu Kyi ran for a seat in the parliament during the March 2012 elections, representing Kawhmu Township. The National League for Democracy winning candidates, including Aung San Suu Kyi, took their oaths in May. The reason why her party ran for seats in the parliament can be summarized quite basically by this excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:
"Suu Kyi and her colleagues decided they could do more by joining as lawmakers than maintaining their boycott on principle."
Aung San Suu Kyi was the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. She has always chosen non-violent approaches in fighting for a democratic government for Myanmar and currently heads the National League of Democracy party.
She was also a recipient of other major recognitions, including Venezuela’s International Simon Bolivar Prize, the United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, Wallenberg Medal, Rafto Prize and Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.