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Q&A: Aung San Suu Kyi's Son Calls for Global Unity in Confronting Myanmar Junta

Kim Aris, the son of Myanmar’s detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, poses for a portrait at the Reuters office in London, Britain, Aug. 2, 2023.
Kim Aris, the son of Myanmar’s detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, poses for a portrait at the Reuters office in London, Britain, Aug. 2, 2023.

Myanmar's detained pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s younger son, Kim Aris, has called for international unity against the actions of the Myanmar junta in an interview with VOA from his home in England.

In the interview via Zoom, Aris says, “the scale of junta’s crime against humanity is horrifying.” He also called for the release of his mother, as well as all political prisoners who have been arbitrarily detained.

He describes how his mother, while working to bring democracy to her home country from England, was supported by his father, Michael Aris, who would later die of cancer. Suu Kyi went back to Myanmar to nurse her dying mother in 1988, during the people's uprising against Ne Win’s socialist authoritarian government.

Suu Kyi would go on to lead the democracy movement in Myanmar and be put under house arrest for more than two decades by the military junta. The junta stripped Aris and his older brother, Alexander Aris, of their Myanmar citizenships in 1989, when their mother first was placed under house arrest.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

VOA: You have frequently been interviewed by different media outlets regarding the current situation in Myanmar where your mother, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years imprisonment by the junta. Why are you now willingly and actively engaging with the media and the public in a way that you haven't before?

Kim Aris: Since the beginning of the coup, I have had no contact with my mother. The military regime has not answered any of my queries as to her whereabouts or told me that I can have any contact with her in any way, shape or form. So, I have no other way of trying to reach her. I tried to do what I can. And I don't believe that anyone seeing the horrific images and sheer scale of the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the military, against the Burmese people could turn a blind eye. … I cannot stand by and simply hope others will do what is needed to free my mother and support the people in desperate need of humanitarian aid if I do not do something myself.

The recent news that my mother had been transferred into house arrest is, as far as I'm aware, not true. As far as I know, she's still in prison in Napyidaw somewhere. And the military have used these tactics of false propaganda many times before. And I think this is just what's happening again, now that they're saying to be moved back to house arrest, whereas in fact, she's still in prison.

VOA: Your mother has said that she didn't want her kids to be involved in politics. Do you know what her reasons were?

Aris: Well, I'm sure every mother's natural instinct is to protect her children. From the personal risks involved due to the brutality of the military. Obviously, paramount in her mind that she herself has faced assassination attempts, and how her father was assassinated as well. These things come with risks.

VOA: Many of our viewers know that you don't like to talk about your personal life much, but can you share a little about your experience, especially for our younger audience, on how you overcame the difficult situation of being alone while your mother was back in Myanmar working to lead her country?

Aris: It has always saddened and angered me that my mother has sometimes been portrayed as cold-hearted because she was unable to be by my father's side during his final days. I was nursing him at that time and can say that he did not want my mother to return to England. After all the sacrifices she had already made. His wish was to join her in Burma (now Myanmar) and be with her under house arrest. Unfortunately, the military could not find this in their hearts to grant his dying wish. I believe it was a unity between my parents and this gave them the strength to oppose the injustice with which they were faced. Furthermore, I never felt that it was actually hard for me to be without my mother compared to what the Burmese people are going through. Their sacrifices have been far greater than anything that I've had to endure.

VOA: Can you give us an update on your campaign to bring attention to your mother’s imprisonment? What is the main aim of the campaign? What do you see as the biggest challenges going forward?

Aris: My main aim is to call on the international community to stand in solidarity, take meaningful action to achieve the release of my mother and all political prisoners and hold to account the military leaders responsible for violating the rule of law and numerous rights of the Burmese people.

Also, I'm trying to support humanitarian aid fundraising events taking place around the world, and to generate more global awareness of the crisis in Burma and the crimes against humanity being committed by the military every day. Some of the biggest challenges that I'm going to be facing are that some governments and institutions are willing to facilitate the military in their increasingly brazen crimes against humanity, the ability of the United Nations and wider international community to effectively impose more targeted sanctions on individuals, companies and institutions that facilitate the flow of revenue and aid to the junta’s military capabilities.

VOA: In my interview with Myanmar activists from the U.K., they said that they felt encouragement when you, as the son of Aung San Suu Kyi, showed your support for them. Do you have any plan to work with any of Myanmar organizations, such as the National Unity government, which led among opponents to the junta?

Aris: No, I have no plans on working with any of them. I have no wish to be a politician in any way. But I will be standing in solidarity with all of these organizations. I believe that they will win this war, especially through collaboration and new unity amongst all the different groups in their common fight against this military regime. My belief is that Burma will reemerge as a democratic country with greater inclusivity and acceptance.