Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi ouN săn so͞o chē [key], 1945–, Burmese political leader, B.A. Oxford, 1969, Ph.D. Univ. of London, 1985. The daughter of assassinated (1947) nationalist general U Aung San, who is regarded as the founder of modern Myanmar, she lived outside the country after 1960. Returning in 1988 to care for her dying mother, she joined the opposition to U Ne Win and became leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Her outspoken criticism of the military leaders of Myanmar and the memory of her father made her a symbol of popular desire for political freedom and a focus of opposition to the dictatorship. In July, 1989, she was placed under house arrest. The NLD won 80% of the seats in 1990 elections for parliament, but the military refused to yield power. Awarded the 1990 Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle, she remained under house arrest until 1995 and was subsequently subject to severe restrictions.

Suu Kyi was again subjected to house arrest or detention from Sept., 2000 to May, 2002, and from May, 2003, to Nov., 2010. Myanmar's military government adopted constitutional (2008) and electoral (2010) restrictions designed to prevent her from running for office or heading a political party. The NLD declined to reregister (2010) under the new election law and was dissolved by the government before the Nov., 2010, voting. Improved relations under President Thein Sein led to the NLD's recognition by 2012, when Suu Kyi announced she would be a candidate in the 2012 elections for parliament; she and more than 40 NLD candidates won seats. In the 2015 elections the NLD won solid majorities in both houses of parliament. Banned under the constitution from serving as president, she became (2016) foreign minister and state counselor (a prime-minister-like post). Since 2017 she has been widely criticized internationally for not denouncing the military's ethnic cleansing campaign against the Muslim Rohingya minority and, subsequently, for defending the military's actions. In 2020, the NLD duplicated its 2015 parliamentary victories. In February 2021, she was ousted in a military coup and subsequently put on trial on charges of violating the country’s import restrictions and interacting with crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. That December, she was convicted on the first of many charges raised against her by the new military junta, and then three more in January 2022, with five more charges pending that could lead to life imprisonment.

See biographies by J. Wintle (2008) and P. Popham (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Southeast Asia History: Biographies