Profile in courage: Aung San Suu Kyi, hero's daughter turned election victor 

The landslide victory by her National League for Democracy (NLD) brings the daughter of Myanmar's independence leader, Aung San, closer to the centre of power, even though she is constitutionally barred from becoming president.

hidden November 14, 2015 02:24:37 IST
Profile in courage: Aung San Suu Kyi, hero's daughter turned election victor 

YANGON: Myanmar's landmark elections on November 8 have cemented Aung San Suu Kyi's position as the most popular political leader in the country.

Profile in courage Aung San Suu Kyi heros daughter turned election victor 

Aung San Suu Kyi/ AFP

The landslide victory by her National League for Democracy (NLD) brings the daughter of Myanmar's independence leader, Aung San, closer to the centre of power, even though she is constitutionally barred from becoming president.

Members of Myanmar's older generation remember the death of Aung San the way Americans over a certain age can recall where they were when US President John F Kennedy was shot.

He was the founder of the Myanmar Army, and after World War II became a leader of the struggle for independence from Britain, before being assassinated in July 1947.

Independence came six months later, when his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, was only 2 years old. Although her father was dead, he became the defining personality of her life.

"She never for one moment forgot that she was the daughter of Burma's national hero, Aung San," wrote Michael Aris, her scholar husband, in the foreword Suu Kyi's book Freedom From Fear, in 1991.

The couple married in 1972 and had two children, Alexander and Kim, who saw little of their mother after 1988, as she was placed under house arrest in Myanmar. Aris died in 1999 in Britain.

Suu Kyi, who spent most of her youth abroad studying in India and later at Oxford, returned to Yangon in 1988 as mass pro-democracy demonstrations were rocking the city.

She emerged from political obscurity to instant celebrity, bolstered by the Aung San name, a certain similarity to her father in her looks and straightforward speaking style.

But on July 20, 1989, she was placed under house detention, days after delivering a speech in which she openly criticized General Ne Win, who ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 1988.

She was to spend 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest.

Suu Kyi was under detention during the May 1990 general election, which was won by a landslide by the NLD, but the junta blocked it from assuming power.

Over the next two decades, she became the darling of Western democracies, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

She was finally freed on November 13, 2010, days after fresh elections brought the prospect of political reform in Myanmar, led by new President Thein Sein.

He allowed Suu Kyi to re-enter mainstream politics and run in by-elections in 2012, when she won a seat in Kawhmu, south of Yangon, and became the opposition leader in parliament.

She has made several high-profile foreign visits, but has also come under criticism for failing to take a strong stance on issues including the treatment of Myanmar's Rohingya minority.

Her bid for the presidency is being blocked by Myanmar's military-drafted constitution, which states that no one who has children with foreign citizenship, such as Suu Kyi has, can be president.

Suu Kyi and her party have not succeeded in amending the country's constitution, but in the wake of her party's landslide she is looking to govern from a position - in her own words - "above the president."

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