Nobel laurete Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon for peaceful resistance for her efforts to bring democracy to a military-ruled Burma, now Myanmar.

She was born in Yangon, Myanmar, in 1945. After years of living and studying abroad, she returned home only to find widespread slaughter of protesters rallying against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win.

The daughter of a Burmese nationalist hero, she became involved in Myanmar’s struggle for national independence in 1988. Taking leadership of the democratic opposition using non-violent means to fight a regime known for its harsh brutality, she also worked for peace amongst feuding regions and ethnic groups in her country.

In 1989, she was placed under house arrest, without charge or trial. The military offered to free her if she agreed to leave Myanmar, but she refused to do so until the country was returned to civilian government and political prisoners were freed. She spent 15 of the next 21 years in strict custody.

In 1991, her ongoing efforts won Suu Kyi the Nobel Prize for Peace, given to honor “her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.” She was finally released from house arrest in November 2010 and subsequently held a seat in parliament for the National League for Democracy party until 2015.

In early March 2016, the NLD party selected the country’s new president, Htin Kyaw, who had been a longtime adviser to Suu Kyi. Because of Suu Kyi’s marriage to a British national, she remains constitutionally barred from the presidency. However, in April 2016 the position of state counsellor was created to allow her a greater role in the country’s affairs. Suu Kyi has publicly stated her intention to rule “above the president” until changes to the constitution can be addressed.

In 2012 actress Michelle Yeoh starred as Aung San Suu Kyi in the film titled, “The Lady” which focuses on her story as the leader of Burma’s democracy movement. “Daw Suu is an incredible woman, an inspiration,” said former Bond star Michelle Yeoh. The Malaysian born actress was recently appointed UNDP’s newest Goodwill Ambassador with her role focusing on raising awareness and mobilizing support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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3 Interesting Facts about Aung San Suu Kyi

  • In 2014 Forbes listed her as the 61st most powerful woman in the world.
  • It is said that her husband, Michael Aris, was not granted a visa from the Burma government when he was diagnosed with cancer. The government encouraged Suu Kyi to leave the country to visit him. Suu Kyi Kyi didn’t because she knew once she did; she would not be allowed to come back to Burma.
  • ‘Daw Suu’ refers to Suu by her nickname meaning ‘revered aunt’.