Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sketch of Burma National Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese); born 19 June 1945 in Yangon (Rangoon), is a nonviolent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and a noted prisoner of conscience.

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 for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. Her struggle is supported by the Freedom Campaign.

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 U, 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 gained prominence as a political figure in the newly-formed Burmese government. 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.

She continued her education at St Hugh's College, Oxford, obtaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1967. After graduation she continued her education in New York, and worked for the United Nations.

In 1972, Aung San Suu Kyi married Michael Aris, a scholar of Tibetan culture, living abroad in Bhutan. The following year she gave birth to her first son, Alexander, in London; and in 1977 she had her second child, Kim.

Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Myanmar 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, 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. ”
Detention in Myanmar

In 1990, the military junta called general elections, which the National League for Democracy won decisively. Under normal circumstances, she would have assumed the office of Prime Minister.[2] Instead, the results were nullified, and the military refused to hand over power.

This resulted in an international outcry and partly led to Aung San Suu Kyi's winning the Sakharov Prize that year and the Nobel Peace Prize the following year in 1991. 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 their children, who live in the United Kingdom.

The junta repeatedly prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from meeting with her party supporters and, in September 2000, it 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.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,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.

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.

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.Suu Kyi's house arrest term was set to expire 27 May 2006, but the Burmese government extended it for another year, flouting a direct appeal from U.N. General Secretary 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.

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.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. 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.

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.
International supporters
In his book, "Courage: Eight Portraits" by Gordon Brown (Bloomsbury), the British Member of Parliament, long-time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and likely future British Prime Minister states:

"So Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her own happiness and a comfortable life so that, through her struggle, she might win the right of an entire nation to seek happy and comfortable lives. It is the absolute expression of selflessness. Paradoxically, in sacrificing her own liberty, she strengthens its cry and bolsters its claim for the people she represents."

On December 2, 2004, the United States pressured the Myanmar government to release Aung San Suu Kyi after the announcement that her house arrest would be extended.

On June 17, 2005, there were protests outside Burmese embassies in several countries in recognition of Suu Kyi's 60th birthday, which took place on June 19, 2005. The protests received international attention.

In late November 2005, the United States again returned to diplomatic pressure, this time in the United Nations Security Council, strongly urging multilateral action to address the "deteriorating situation" in Myanmar, requesting to put it into the official agenda docket. This action was due largely to a reinstatement of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest, an extension of precisely one year. In September 2006, the United Nations Security Council voted to place Myanmar on the council's agenda.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been an honorary board member of International IDEA and ARTICLE 19 since her detention, and has received support from these organisations.

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, located in Belgium, has granted her the title of Doctor Honoris Causa.

In June of each year, the US Campaign for Burma organizes hundreds of "Arrest Yourself" house parties around the world in support of Aung San Suu Kyi. At these parties, the organizers keep themselves under house arrest for 24 hours, invite their friends, and learn more about Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Freedom Campaign, a joint effort between the Human Rights Action Center and US Campaign for Burma, looks to raise worldwide attention to the struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.

St. Hugh's College, Oxford, where she studied, had a Burmese theme for their annual ball in support of her in 2006.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the official patron of The Rafto Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway. She received the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize in 1990.

She was made an honorary free person of the City of Dublin (capital of Ireland) in November 1999, although a space has been left on the roll of signatures to symbolize her continued detention.

Bommersvik Declaration I
In 1995, during the first convention that lasted from 16-23 July, the Representatives issued the Bommersvik Declaration I:[21]

“ We, the representatives of the people of Burma, elected in the 27 May 1990 general elections, meeting at the First Convention of Elected Representatives from the liberated areas of Burma, hereby - Warmly welcome the unconditional release of 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 10 July 1995; Thank all who have worked tirelessly and consistently for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the cause of democracy in Burma; Applaud Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's determination, in spite of having spent 6 years under house arrest, to continue to work to bring true democracy to Burma; Welcome Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's return to politics to take up the mantle of her father, General Aung San, in Burma's second struggle for independence;... ”
— The Elected Representatives of the Union of Burma

Bommersvik Declaration II
In 2002, during the second convention that lasted from 25 February to the 1st of March, the Representatives issued the Bommersvik Declaration II:[22]

“ We, the representatives of the people of Burma, elected in the 27 May 1990 general elections presently serving as members of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and/or the Members of Parliament Union, meeting at the Convention of Elected Representatives held in Bommersvik for the second time, hereby reaffirm - Our Mandate, Position, and Strategic Objectives - that we will never ignore the will of the Burmese people expressed through the May 1990 general elections; - that the military’s refusal to honor the election results does not in any way diminish the validity of these results..... ”
— The Elected Representatives of the Union of Burma
Michael Vaillancourt Aris (March 27, 1946, Havana, Cuba – March 27, 1999, Oxford) was an academic and lecturer in Asian history at St John's College and later at St Antony's College, Oxford.

He was a leading Western authority on Bhutanese, Tibetan, and Himalayan culture, and wrote numerous books on Buddhism in those regions. In the last years before his death, he helped to establish a specialist Tibetan and Himalayan studies center at Oxford.

After being educated at Worth School and upon completing his degree in modern history at Durham University in 1967, Aris spent six years as the private tutor of the children of the royal family of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

In 1972, Aris married Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he had met while in college. After spending a year in Bhutan, they settled in North Oxford, where they would raise their two sons, Alexander and Kim.

During this time, he did postgraduate studies at the University of London and obtained a Ph.D. in Tibetan literature in 1978. In 1988 Suu Kyi returned to Burma at first to tend for her mother but later to lead the pro-democracy movement.

St John's College provided Aris with an extended leave of absence as a fellow on full stipend so that he could lobby for his wife's cause.

In 1997, Aris was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The Burmese government would not grant him a visa to visit Burma, and Aung San Suu Kyi — at that time temporarily free from house arrest — was unwilling to leave the country, having been told by government officials that she would be refused re-entry if she left.

He died on his 53rd birthday in 1999. Since 1989, when his wife was first placed under house arrest, he had seen her only five times, the last of which was for Christmas in 1995.
People Talk
Michael Aris, the husband of the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has died of prostate cancer on his 53rd birthday.
The British academic succumbed after a long illness without realising his wish to see his wife one last time.

Described as a "courageous and patient man", Dr Aris has campaigned tirelessly for Burmese democracy and received hundreds of awards on his wife's behalf.

They included the Nobel Peace Prize she was given in 1991 for her efforts to bring peace and democracy to Burma.

A senior research fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan studies at St Antony's College, Oxford University, he wrote numerous books and articles on Buddhism in Bhutan and Tibet.

The establishment of Oxford's specialist Tibetan and Himalayan studies centre was his life-long dream.

Visa denied

Dr Aris was born in Cuba, where his father was a career officer with the British Council. His mother was the daughter of a French-Canadian ambassador.

He married Ms Suu Kyi on New Year's Day 1972 in a simply Buddhist ceremony in England, but it was always on the understanding that they would have to be apart if the Burmese people needed her.

They have two sons, Kim and Alexander.

In the final months of his life, Dr Aris repeatedly attempted to gain a visa to visit his wife in Burma, but his wish was frustrated by the military government's stalling.

Ms Suu Kyi declined to leave the country after her return there to nurse her mother in 1988, for fear that she would not be readmitted.

Five brief visits

She was placed under house arrest by Burma's military government in 1989 following anti-government demonstrations that propelled her to the head of the opposition movement.

Mr Aris had only seen his wife on five brief occasions in the last 10 years - the last being in Rangoon for Christmas in 1995 after her release from house arrest.

Appeals by several countries, prominent individuals and organisations were made to the Burmese authorities to allow Mr Aris a visa.

The United States, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Pope were among them, but none were successful.
In News

It was as exotic an offer as a young college graduate could imagine. Michael Aris, freshly out of Durham University with an honors degree in modern history, was invited to become the private tutor of the children of the royal family of the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

In the six years he was to spend there, he began the intense acquaintance with the languages, history, art, religion and literature of the region that was to make him a leading Western authority on Bhutanese, Tibetan and Himalayan culture.

His death in an Oxford hospital on his 53rd birthday Saturday drew much attention because he was the husband of the Nobel Prize-winning Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But the academic achievements of the shy and modest Oxford don over three decades earned him high regard in his own right as a scholar who combined the study of textual sources with the experience of firsthand encounters and extensive travel.

It was during his college years that he met his future wife, who was studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford and staying in the home of a classmate of his whose father was Sir Paul Gore-Booth, a former British ambassador to Burma.

It was in the Gore-Booths' London home that the couple were married in a Buddhist ceremony on Jan. 1, 1972, after a courtship maintained largely by mail between Bhutan and England.

They spent the first year of their married life in Bhutan where Aris had become, in addition to the royal tutor, the head of the kingdom's translation department and its official history researcher.

They came to England a year later for Aris to do postgraduate studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London and in 1976 moved on to Oxford where Aris became a junior research fellow at St. John's College and a member of the university faculty. He obtained a Ph.D. in Tibetan literature in 1978 from the University of London.

The first 16 years of their life together were spent in academic pursuits and raising their children, Alexander, born in 1973, and Kim, born in 1977. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi studied, wrote and worked in the Oriental department at the Bodleian Library.

The daughter of her country's independence hero, Gen. Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, she expressed a preoccupation with the future in one of the hundreds of letters she wrote to Aris before their marriage. "Sometimes I am beset by fears that circumstances and national considerations might tear us apart just when we are so happy in each other that separation would be a torment," she wrote.

That moment arrived in an understated episode that Aris recalled in a forward to "Freedom From Fear," a 1991 collection of essays by and about his wife.

"It was a quiet evening in Oxford, like many others, the last day of March 1988," he wrote. "Our sons were in bed and we were reading when the telephone rang. Suu picked up the phone to learn that her mother had suffered a severe stroke. She put the phone down at once and started to pack. I had a premonition that our lives would change for ever."

She returned home to care for her dying mother and became swept up in the pro-democracy protests that brought down the government of the longtime military ruler, Gen. Ne Win. By the time the new National League for Democracy was elected to power in 1990, only to be ousted by a uniformed junta, she had become what her husband called "an icon of popular hope and longing."

Thus began years of house arrest, often with all contact with the outside world cut off, for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and strictly controlled visits to Burma, now called Myanmar, by Aris and the couple's two sons. She refused to leave for fear of being permanently exiled by the military authorities.

The last time Aris saw his wife was on a Christmas visit in 1995. Since he discovered two months ago that his prostate cancer was terminal, he had repeatedly asked permission to pay her a last visit, and the Burmese regime had turned down every request.

During the years of separation, Aris continued his teaching and research at Oxford while raising the couple's sons. Both are still students: Alexander doing graduate work in the United States and his younger brother an undergraduate in Britain. Polly Friedhoff, spokeswoman for St. Antony's College at Oxford, where Aris was a senior research fellow and member of the governing body, said that the family, in keeping with its wishes to maintain privacy, did not want to identify the schools publicly. The funeral also is private.

When Burmese authorities blocked his wife from accepting human rights awards like the Sakharov prize of the European Parliament in 1990 and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize a year later, Aris and the sons stood in for her.

Aris convened numerous panels on Himalayan subjects, served in the leadership of various academic societies, supervised students doing master's and doctoral degrees and worked in his last years to set up a specialist Tibetan and Himalayan studies center on a permanent institutional basis at Oxford. From 1990 to 1992 he was a visiting professor at Harvard.

Michael Vaillancourt Aris was born in Havana, Cuba. His mother, Josette, was French Canadian, and his English father, John, was an officer with the British Council, Britain's principal agency for cultural relations overseas. Michael Aris' identical twin, Anthony, is a publisher whose house specializes in scholarly books on Tibetan culture.

According to close friends, Aris was unflinchingly supportive of his wife's decision and never once complained that she should abandon the mission and come home.

In his forward to "Freedom From Fear," Aris reflected his disciplined Buddhist detachment in assessing the circumstances of his life. "Fate and history never seem to work in orderly ways," he wrote. "Timings are unpredictable and do not wait upon conveniences."
Popular media
Aung San Suu Kyi was featured prominently in John Boorman's 1995 film Beyond Rangoon, starring Patricia Arquette. Suu Kyi was played by Adele Lutz, the former wife of the musician David Byrne.

The jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter named one of his compositions after her. The piece is best known from the 1997 Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter duet album, 1 + 1.

The Irish rock band U2's 2001 single "Walk On" was about and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. The multi-artist 2004 compilation album For The Lady, which featured "Walk On", was banned by the junta.
During Vertigo Tour concerts in London and Glasgow (June 19 and June 21, 2005 respectively), U2 dedicated performances of "Running to Stand Still" to her. Other artists, including Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, Damien Rice, and R.E.M. have also publicly supported Aung San Suu Kyi's cause.

She was featured prominently in the music video for Rice's collaboration with Lisa Hannigan, "Unplayed Piano", which was apparently written for Suu Kyi.

In 2003's MTV Europe Music Awards in Edinburgh, Scotland, she was given the "Free Your Mind" award.

In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman in 2006, she was voted as the number one "Hero of our time".

No comments: