19 June 2018 Blogs

Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday

Intro Copy

Today marks the 73rd birthday of one of the most controversial, and perhaps contradictory, active political figures of our time. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose career has earned her both the highest praise and the sternest condemnation, is currently State Counsellor of Myanmar (this position is similar to that of a Prime Minister, in that it allows her to work across all areas of government). The highs and lows of Aung San Suu Kyi’s life are worth exploring, and would undoubtedly provide students life lessons in the complexities of politics. Suu Kyi, as a pro-democracy activist, rose to prominence beginning in August 1988 in what would later be known as the 8888 Uprising. She became General Secretary of the National League of Democracy (NLD), a political party she helped found. (In 1989, Burma’s name was officially changed to Myanmar, but still today, there is disagreement on what exactly the country’s name should be.) In the 1990 elections, Suu Kyi’s NLD won a large majority of seats in Parliament, but the election was essentially nullified because the ruling military refused to hand over power. There was an international uproar over this, and Suu Kyi was detained on house arrest. She was on house arrest, off and on, from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the most recognized political prisoners in the world. Along the way, Aung San Suu Kyi received international acclaim for her pro-democratic activism. In 1990 she earned the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and in 1991 she received the Nobel Peace Prize. After receiving her freedom from house arrest, she held prominent positions in the Myanmar government, and in April 2016 she was appointed to her current post as State Counsellor. Around this time, a humanitarian crisis was occurring. The Muslim Rohingya people, largely regarded as illegal immigrants by a majority of Myanmar, were suffering from violent crackdowns, actions that the United Nations called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” In the face of this crisis, Suu Kyi was accused of doing nothing to help this persecuted minority; thus, her image as a stalwart defender of human rights has been all but forgotten. For instance, the Elie Wiesel Award she received in 2012 by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was rescinded because she had failed to intervene in the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. The rise and fall of Aung San Suu Kyi in the eyes of the international community is a fascinating story to teach students, and eLibrary has all the information needed to do so.

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