Aung San Suu Kyi – The ‘Reformist’ of Burma!
A year ago, it was considered as a banned symbol of reform and resistance! Now Burma’s most reckoned face is becoming a signature in Rangoon: on newspaper front pages, posters and trinkets, the serene profile of Aung San Suu Kyi is difficult to avoid. Also, it is hard to forgo the impression that Burma is on the edge of something quite unusual and unexpected in this region – change! After two decades of surreal, cruel and obstinate rules in turns, the government is exhibiting tentative signs of reform. Here is an ode to the feisty lady of Burma who inspires us to strive for a better world!
One person who made it her mission to strive for this reform is Suu Kyi. As Burma’s Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy leader, she symbolizes the struggle of common man to be free and independent. Detained and imprisoned for more than 13 years by the Burmese regime for campaigning for democracy and human rights in Burma, she became the source of hope for millions. In the face of adversity, she still remains fearless and strives for her nation’s reform.
The Early Years
Suu Kyi was born on June 19th, 1945. Her father, Aung San, was Burma’s independence hero who was brutally assassinated when Suu was merely 2 years old. She was later educated in Burma, India and U.K. When she was pursuing her education at Oxford University, she fell in love with Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar. In 1972, they exchanged vows and got married. Subsequently, they had two sons, Kim and Alexander.
While Suu Kyi was in Burma, Michael Aris passed away from cancer on March 27 1999. Here is a heart-wrenching fact: before his death, Michael had petitioned the Burmese regime to allow him to see his wife for one last time, but his petition was rejected.
Michael had not seen Suu Kyi since a Christmas visit in 1995. The Burmese regime always implored Suu Kyi to re-join her family abroad. However, she was aware of the fact that once she leaves Burma, she would never be allowed to return.
Foray into Politics
In 1988, she had come back to Burma to nurse her ailing mother. But, she was immediately flung into the nation’s democracy uprising. She joined the newly-formed party, National League for Democracy (NLD).
As a member, she gave many inspiring speeches calling for democracy and freedom. In response to the uprising, the military regime used brute force, which lead to nearly 5,000 demonstrators’ deaths.
Unfazed by Brutality and Cruelty
But the brutal force and questionable killings were not enough to silence the voice of millions fighting for justice! Failing to maintain a strong grip on wavering power, the military regime was finally forced to call for a general election in 1990.
As she started to campaign for the new party, she along with other demonstrators were imprisoned by the military regime. Even though she was held under house arrest, the party won the general election by a staggering 82% of parliament seats. However, the regime never recognized or accepted the election results.
The feisty lady has won many international awards, including the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, the United States Presidential Medal for Freedom and the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament. Suu Kyi called on people worldwide to join the struggle for Burma’s freedom, claiming “Please use your liberty to promote ours.”
Running in Upcoming Burma By-Election
The unshakable democracy leader will now run in a parliamentary by-election. This is expected to happen by this year end. This announcement was announced just 3 days after her popular movement called off its boycott of Burma’s political system.
This is the first time that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate will actually contest a seat as a candidate in her NLD’s 1990 election, which was discarded by the regime and resulted in her lengthy incarceration.
The mere presence of the iron lady can be one more sign of openness which could add more legitimacy to the erstwhile generals in command, who are eagerly waiting for acceptance by the international community as well as the public at home. This is the same reason why Burma lobbied pretty hard for a chance to hold the 10-member ASEAN scheduled for 2014, two years well in advance.
The Brave One!
Similar to the invincible South African leader Nelson Mandela, the brave Suu Kyi has become the epitome of peaceful resistance in the face of intense adversity and oppression.
During a rare interview in 2007 when the democracy uprising was brutally squashed by the military regime, the brave lady said democracy was “not yet finished in Burma”.
She famously told John Pilger, a British journo, “No matter the regime’s physical power, in the end they can’t stop the people; they can’t stop freedom.We shall have our time.” Her words are now turning into reality!
A grand salute to the brave, unshakable soul – Aung San Suu Kyi!