Aung San Suu Kyi born 19 June 1945 is a Burmese politician, diplomat, and author, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991). She is the leader of the National League for Democracy and the first and incumbent State Counsellor, a position akin to a prime minister. She is also the first woman to serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs, for the President’s Office, for Electric Power and Energy, and for Education. From 2012 to 2016 she was an MP for Kawhmu Township to the House of Representatives.
The youngest daughter of Aung San, Father of the Nation of modern-day Myanmar, and Khin Kyi, Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon, British Burma. After graduating from the University of Delhi in 1964 and the University of Oxford in 1968, she worked at the United Nations for three years. She married Michael Aris in 1972, with whom she had two children. Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence in the 1988 Uprisings, and became the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which she had newly formed with the help of several retired army officials who criticized the military junta. In the 1990 elections, NLD won 81% of the seats in Parliament, but the results were nullified, as the military refused to hand over power, resulting in an international outcry. She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.
Her party boycotted the 2010 elections, resulting in a decisive victory for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Aung San Suu Kyi became a Pyithu Hluttaw MP while her party won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the 2012 by-elections. In the 2015 elections, her party won a landslide victory, taking 86% of the seats in the Assembly of the Union – well more than the 67 percent supermajority needed to ensure that its preferred candidates were elected President and Second Vice President in the Presidential Electoral College. Although she was prohibited from becoming the President due to a clause in the constitution – her late husband and children are foreign citizens – she assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, a role akin to a Prime Minister or a head of government. Aung San Suu Kyi’s honours include the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 1991. Time Magazine named her one of the “Children of Gandhi” and his spiritual heir to non-violence.
Since ascending to the office of State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi has drawn criticism from many countries, organisations and figures over her inaction to the persecution of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and refusal to accept that Myanmar’s military has committed massacres.
Aung San Suu Kyi, like other Burmese names, includes no surname, but is only a personal name, in her case derived from three relatives: “Aung San” from her father, “Suu” from her paternal grandmother, and “Kyi” from her mother Khin Kyi.
The Burmese refer to her as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw, literally meaning “aunt”, is not part of her name but is an honorific for any older and revered woman, akin to “Madam”. Burmese sometimes address her as Daw Suu or Amay Suu (“Mother Suu”).
Her tenure as State Counsellor of Myanmar has drawn international criticism for her failure to address her country’s economic and ethnic problems, particularly the plight of the Rohingya following the 25 August 2017 ARSA attacks (described as “certainly one of the biggest refugee crises and cases of ethnic cleansing since the second world war”), for the weakening of freedom of the press and for her style of leadership, described as imperious and “distracted and out of touch”.
In 2017, critics have called for Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize to be revoked, citing her silence over the persecution of Rohingya people in Myanmar. Some activists criticised Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the 2012 Rakhine State riots (later repeated during the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis), and her perceived indifference to the plight of the Rohingya, Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority. In 2012, she told reporters she did not know if the Rohingya could be regarded as Burmese citizens. In a 2013 interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain, Suu Kyi did not condemn violence against the Rohingya and denied that Muslims in Myanmar have been subject to ethnic cleansing, insisting that the tensions were due to a “climate of fear” caused by “a worldwide perception that global Muslim power is ‘very great'”. She did condemn “hate of any kind” in the interview. According to Peter Popham, in the aftermath of the interview, she expressed anger at being interviewed by a Muslim. Husain had challenged Suu Kyi that almost all of the impact of violence was against the Rohingya, in response to Suu Kyi’s claim that violence was happening on both sides, and Peter Popham described her position on the issue as one of purposeful ambiguity for political gain.[page needed]
However, she said that she wanted to work towards reconciliation and she cannot take sides as violence has been committed by both sides. According to The Economist, her “halo has even slipped among foreign human-rights lobbyists, disappointed at her failure to make a clear stand on behalf of the Rohingya minority”. However, she has spoken out “against a ban on Rohingya families near the Bangladeshi border having more than two children”.
In a 2015 BBC News article, reporter Jonah Fisher suggested that Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence over the Rohingya issue is due to a need to obtain support from the majority Bamar ethnicity as she is in “the middle of a general election campaign”. In May 2015, the Dalai Lama publicly called upon her to do more to help the Rohingya in Myanmar, claiming that he had previously urged her to address the plight of the Rohingya in private during two separate meetings and that she had resisted his urging. In May 2016, Suu Kyi asked the newly appointed United States Ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, not to refer to the Rohingya by that name. This followed Bamar protests at Marciel’s use of the word “Rohingya”.
In 2016, Suu Kyi was accused of failing to protect Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims during the 2016–17 persecution.State crime experts from Queen Mary University of London warned that Suu Kyi is “legitimising genocide” in Myanmar. Despite continued persecution of the Rohingya well into 2017, Suu Kyi was “not even admitting, let alone trying to stop, the army’s well-documented campaign of rape, murder and destruction against Rohingya villages”. On 4 September 2017, Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, criticised Suu Kyi’s response to the “really grave” situation in Rakhine, saying: “The de facto leader needs to step in – that is what we would expect from any government, to protect everybody within their own jurisdiction.” The BBC reported that “Her comments came as the number of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh reached 87,000, according to UN estimates”, adding that “her sentiments were echoed by Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, who said she was waiting to hear from Ms Suu Kyi – who has not commented on the crisis since it erupted”. The next day George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, called on readers to sign a change.org petition to have the Nobel peace prize revoked, criticising her silence on the matter and asserting “whether out of prejudice or out of fear, she denies to others the freedoms she rightly claimed for herself. Her regime excludes – and in some cases seeks to silence – the very activists who helped to ensure her own rights were recognised.” The Nobel Foundation replied that there existed no provision for revoking a Nobel Prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow peace prize holder, also criticised Suu Kyi’s silence: in an open letter published on social media, he said: “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep … It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country.” On September 13 it was revealed that Suu Kyi would not be attending a UN General Assembly debate being held the following week to discuss the humanitarian crisis, with a Myanmar government spokesman stating “perhaps she has more pressing matters to deal with”.
In October 2017, Oxford City Council announced that, following a unanimous cross-party vote, the honour of Freedom of the City, granted in 1997 in recognition of her “long struggle for democracy”, was to be withdrawn following evidence emerging from the United Nations which meant that she was “no longer worthy of the honour”. A few days later, Munsur Ali, a councillor for City of London Corporation, tabled a motion to rescind the Freedom of the City of London: the motion was supported by Catherine McGuinness, chair of the corporation’s policy and resources committee, who expressed “distress … at the situation in Burma and the atrocities committed by the Burmese military”. On 13 November 2017, Bob Geldof returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award in protest over Suu Kyi also holding the accolade, stating that he does not “wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people of north-west Burma”. Calling Suu Kyi a “handmaiden to genocide”, Geldof added that he would take pride in his award being restored if it is first stripped from her. The Dublin City Council voted 59–2 (with one abstention) to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City award over Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya people in December 2017, though Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha denied the decision was influenced by protests by Geldof and members of U2. At the same meeting, the Councillors voted 37–7 (with 5 abstentions) to remove Geldof’s name from the Roll of Honorary Freemen.
In March 2018, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revoked Suu Kyi’s Elie Wiesel Award, awarded in 2012, citing her failure “to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign” against Rohingya Muslims.
In May 2018, Suu Kyi was rendered complicit in the crimes against Rohingyas in a report by Britain’s International Development Committee.
In August 2018, it was revealed that Suu Kyi will be revoked of her Freedom of Edinburgh award over her refusal to speak out against the crimes committed against the Rohingya. She had received the award in 2005 for promoting peace and democracy in Burma. This will be only the second time that anyone has ever been stripped of the award, after Charles Stewart Parnell lost it in 1890 due to a salacious affair.