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Aung San Suu Kyi:  Defender of Burmese Democracy - 2002-05-03


Burma's pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi turns 56 on June 19.

For most of the past decade, the government has restricted her movements - confining her to her lakeside home in Rangoon. Despite this treatment, she has sought reconciliation with the country's military rulers.

In late 2000, shortly after her latest confinement began, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi entered secret talks with the government, arranged by United Nations special envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail. Until recently, those discussions were thought to have stalled, even though the government has freed hundreds of political prisoners - most of them associated with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

Aung San Suu Kyi was the third child and only daughter of Burmese independence hero Aung San and his wife, Khin Kyi. The daughter grew up in India with her mother, who was ambassador to that country. She later went to Oxford University and received a degree in philosophy, politics and economics.

In 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. She had married Oxford researcher Michael Aris and they had two children.

Late that year, the military crushed a pro-democracy uprising, killing or jailing many hundreds of people. Aung San Suu Kyi stayed in Burma after her mother's death and spoke out in favor of democracy.

She was placed under house arrest in the middle of 1989, and would remain in detention until 1995. Despite her release then, her movements were restricted. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her continued efforts to bring about democracy.

Her National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in general elections the military allowed in 1990. But the ruling generals never recognized the election results, and put many of the elected members of parliament in detention.

Early in 1999, her husband died in Britain of prostate cancer. Burmese authorities had denied him permission to visit his wife for more than three years.

In September of 2000, after defying government orders to not travel outside Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi was again confined to her home, with visitors restricted to only a handful of diplomats.

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