Aung San Suu Kyi

Awarded 1995

Since 1988, Daw Aung Sam Suu Kyi has been the leader of the Burmese opposition, the Secretary General of the National League for Democracy (NLD). She was awarded the LI Prize for Freedom in 1995.

From 1989 to 1995 she was kept under house arrest by the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) under martial law as a prisoner of conscience.

In addition to previous countless awards and honors, she has received the IRC (International Rescue Committee) Freedom Award (1995), as well as the Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year Award (a prize from a non-political child assistance organisation located in Pennsylvania). She eventually managed to receive the award, though two previous meetings had been prevented by the SLORC.

She sees her struggle in a spiritual way and she demands peaceful democratic reforms. Her convictions are entirely non-violent. She fights against ignorance with a great understanding for people and the situations in which they must live. She campaigns for changes through dialogue, but the government refuses dialogue until she softens her attitude towards the rulers.

Daw Aung Sam Suu Kyi is nevertheless very active. She gives interviews, seminars, and she has also made some video tapes. She published several books: Freedom from Fear and Other Writings (1995), The Voice of Hope(1997), and Letters from Burma (1998). The Mainichi Daily News in English and the Mainichi Daily Shimbun in Japanese has carried her weekly series, ‘Letter from Burma’, also published in The Voice of Burma during the end of 1995 and 1996. The Japanese newspaper won the Shimbun Award of 1996 for it.

Since her release, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has continued to challenge the junta, causing tensions to increase considerably. She used to address the crowd on the street and followers would soon gather around her house, but the military government cracked down harshly on such free speech forums. Moreover, she has advised tourists to cancel their visits until Burma becomes a land more inclined to freedom. She has alos appealed to investors to wait for better times rather than support present-day injustice. These appeals served to increse tensions, particularly because economic sanctions were effectively taken against Burma. In April 1997, an armed group linked to the junta attacked her car.

Last summer she stepped up her campaign, demanding that the government allow the legitimate members of parliament, elected in 1990, to take their seats. She also appealed to soldiers to join the democratic movement. The government reacted with another harsh crackdown on the party, arresting hundreds of followers and supporters. She attempted four times to break a government-imposed travel ban and tried to leave the capital in order to meet her supporters. She was stopped each time by the SLORC – by then renamed into SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) – forces and spent up to a week waiting in her car. Health concerns were expressed because of these stand-offs.

As a result, several countries, including the US, took a position against the Burmese authorities, calling on Burma to stop human rights violations. Officials from Japan and Germany have repeatedly demanded to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but have been refused the authorisation.

The Burmese authorities have waged a campaign in the hope of discrediting her, charging her with ‘trickery’. She was also attacked because of her marriage to a British national, Michael Aris, and therefore accused of serving foreign interests. She was not allowed to see her husband for several years, not even when he was passing away in the spring of 1999.