An India-educated democracy beacon in Myanmar

May 29th, 2012 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Yangon, May 29 (IANS) India-educated Aung San Suu Kyi, who didn’t leave Myanmar even when her huband was dying of cancer as she feared she may not be allowed to return, is to her country what Nelson Mandela was to South Africa — a powerful symbol of democracy.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday met Suu Kyi, 66, here during his three-day trip here.

The pro-democracy leader has fought a tough and long battle against the military that has ruled Myanmar for nearly 50 years before beginning to share power with the civilians. In the years before she was placed under house arrest at her lakeside village in Yangon and became a symbol of hope for her people, she spent a long time in other countries including India.

Suu Kyi passed out from New Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College in 1964 with a degree in political science. While in Delhi, she lived in the very house in the heart of the city that later became the Congress party headquarters.

Daughter of Aung San, considered a hero in Myanmar, Suu Kyi was born in June 1945. When she was barely two, her father was assassinated. In 1960, her mother Daw Khin Kyi was appointed ambassador to India. From Delhi, the daughter moved to Oxford to study philosophy, politics and economics.

On Jan 1, 1972, she married Michael Aris. Their first son, Alexander, was born in 1973 and the second, Kim, in 1977.

The year 1988 marked a dramatic change in her life when she rushed to Myanmar to take care of her ailing mother, perhaps little realizing that she would go on to wage nearly a quarter-century struggle against the military.

Three years later in 1991, she won the Nobel Peace prize.

On March 27, 1999, her husband died of prostate cancer in London. He had petitioned the Myanmar military authorities to allow him to visit Suu Kyi one last time, but they rejected his request.

The government instead urged her to join her family abroad. But she knew this was a ruse, to keep her away from Myanmar.
She regarded the separation as one of the sacrifices she had had to make in order to work for a free Burma (Myanmar).

And she succeeded.

On May 2 this year, Suu Kyi, whose party swept last month’s byelections, was sworn in a member of Myanmar’s parliament, a major development as the country moves towards military-guided democracy.

(Rahul Dass can be contacted at rahul.d@ians.in)

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