The Lady of Rangoon, a resistance icon

2 min

For more than 20 years, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese opposition, has been fighting peacefully and determinedly for democracy in her country, inspiring countless people at home and across the world.


Aung San Suu Kyi is an iconic figure of the resistance against Burma’s military dictatorship, but it was almost by accident that she came to lead the opposition in the 1980s.

Educated in India, then in the United Kingdom, the married mother of two returned to Burma in 1988 to look after her sick mother. That same year, the army violently crushed anti-government demonstrations. Thousands were killed.

A few months later, Suu Kyi   known as the Lady of Rangoon   helped form the National League for Democracy. The party won the 1990 general election by a landslide, but the vote was annulled by the ruling generals. Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for the next five years. But when she came out, her determination was as resolute as ever.

Disciple of non-violence

She has sacrificed everything   her health, her liberty and her family   to her political combat.

As her husband was dying of cancer in England in 1999, she chose to stay in Burma for fear that she would not be allowed back into the country. But this disciple of Gandhi and non-violent resistance has refused to wallow in self-pity, using her rare moments of liberty to speak out against the military junta.

Despite high-profile support from around the world, her situation has yet to improve. For the military dictatorship, the Lady of Rangoon is a threat   and any excuse to keep her in detention will do.

The Nobel laureate has been deprived of her liberty for more than 14 of the last 20 years. In August 2009, as her last period of confinement expired, she was charged with breaking detention rules after an American swam uninvited to her compound and condemned to an additional 18 months of house arrest.

In the run-up to a November 2010 poll, the country's first election in 20 years, Suu Kyi said she "would not dream" of taking part in a rigged contest. The junta promptly dissolved her party for boycotting the vote.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning