So I was finally able to catch up on some reading today (thanks, nursing school) and saw that Aung San Suu Kyi was released on Saturday. Two years ago, during the time that I will begin to call “The Golden Age of My Nursing Education,” I wrote an essay about her for my Political Science class (side note: Yes, I’d already taken PoliSci for my first degree but decided to re-take some courses to raise my GPA in hopes of increasing my chances of getting into nursing school. Little did I know what kind of hell it was going to be after I got in).
I’d considered posting this paper on here before but decided not to do it for fear that some scheming college student will try to plagiarize my paper. But what the heck, what’s the point of keeping this? I’ll share it. Hope you enjoy!
The Imprisoned Prime Minister of Burma
Perhaps there is no greater theme in recent history, political or social, than those of liberty and democracy. Unfortunately, these are themes often underlined by severe tragedies. Throughout the world, beacons of freedom have risen from under the oppression of and to fight for the people, often giving much of their lives to a bigger cause. Nelson Mandela, a symbol of human rights, was imprisoned for 27 years for his opposition to the Apartheid system of South Africa. Both Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed their lives fighting for the freedom of their people. These three and others like them challenged not only entire governments for their unfair practices but also the minds of others by bringing to the surface a simple yet profound question: Would you risk your freedom for the freedom of your people? A Burmese woman, Aung San Suu Kyi, gave her answer.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s early life set the stage for her to become the courageous and pacifistic freedom fighter the world knows today. She was born in 1945 to General Aung Sun, once a national leader of Burma, and Khin Kyi, who eventually became an ambassador to India and Nepal (“The Nobel Peace Prize 1991”). As the daughter of an ambassador, she would accompany her mother to various countries, receiving her education in Rangoon (Burma), New Delhi (India), London (England) and New York. Her high global mobility would qualify her as growing up as a Third Culture Kid, a term used to refer to kids “who spend a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture… adjusting to a wide variety of influences” and “[incorporating] elements of both their host culture and their passport culture into a ‘third culture’” (Pollack, Van Reken and, Gould 2002, p. 151). Such individuals grow up to become tolerant and have an appreciation for the thought processes of others. The influences of her political parents and her international upbringing are the foundations to her role as a revolutionary and her stance on democracy she would take later in life.
Just as her parents and background have granted her voice in favor of human rights and democracy, so would her home country of Burma give her a stage on which to use it. The death of Burmese democracy took place in 1962, paving the way for General Ne Win’s Socialist Programme Party to implement a military dictatorship (“A Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi”). Under this corrupt and authoritarian leadership, the people of Burma were denied “free elections and freedom of expression” and were subjected to “torture, political imprisonment, and other human rights abuses” (“Campaign for Human Rights”). The plight of the Burmese people would bring Aung San Suu Kyi, who answered their cries for a new leader only to be wrongfully robbed of her earned position by the reigning regime. After 30 years without a national election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 392 of the 492 parliamentary seats, winning her the right to serve as Burma’s Prime Minster (“The Nobel Peace Prize 1991”). However, the military regime, or junta, who had placed Aung San Suu Kyi under detention even before the election, prevented her from taking her seat as Prime Minister, declaring that “the election was not for a parliament” and “Suu Kyi has been in and out of house arrest ever since (“A Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi”; “Brief Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi”). The Burmese government has offered her freedom if she were to leave the country, something that she refuses to do in order to fight for her people, knowing that she will not be allowed back.
Even though the military junta of Burma has actively tried both to silence and to discredit her, the world has had overwhelming response to Aung San Suu Kyi’s conviction. Numerous leaders from various countries have voiced their support for Suu Kyi, calling for her release, with both Canada and Ireland granting her honorary status as a free citizen. In 2007, a letter, demanding Suu Kyi’s freedom, was released and signed by nearly 60 prominent world leaders, among them are Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung” (Agencies). In addition to this, the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has also voiced his support for the release of Su Kyi (Agencies). Not only has she had international support in favor of her release but she has also “won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom” (“The Nobel Peace Prize 1991”). Eleven months ago, the US House unanimously voted, 400 to 0, to “award Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi its highest honour—the Congressional Gold medal” (“US House Honours Burma’s Suu Kyi”). Though imprisoned and largely isolated not only from her family but also from the rest of the world, people everywhere have rallied behind her and have shown tremendous support.
It has nearly been twenty years since Aung San Suu Kyi rightfully won and was robbed of the position of Prime Minister for her country. It has even been longer since she first began her series of stints in either prison or house arrest as imposed on her by the Burmese Government. However, in the course of two decades, Suu Kyi has grown to become a symbol of freedom, often being hailed as the modern-day Ghandi. In this time of wars against terrorism and historical elections, Suu Kyi has patiently been waiting for her turn to be Prime Minister. Her pacifist ways have inspired people all over the world, both regular people and political leaders. She has been awarded more awards in her twenty years of imprisonment than most people will receive in a lifetime. She has voluntarily given up her choices and her freedom so that she can fight for the choices and freedom of her country and its people. When faced with the question, “Would you risk your freedom for the freedom of your people?” A Burmese woman, now the rightful Prime Minister of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, said “yes.”
“A Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi.” The Burma Campaign UK. 01 February 2008. 21
Agencies. “Leaders Demand Suu Kyi’s Release.” Media with Conscience. 15 May
2007. 24 November 2008.
“Aung San Suu Kyi: The Nobel Peace Prize 1991.” Nobel Prize. 21 November 2008.
“Brief Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi.” US Campaign for Burma. 21 Nobember 2008.
Gould, James B., Pollock, David C., van Reken, Ruth E. “Always Saying Goodbye.”
Journal of Loss and Trauma. April 2002: 151-156.
“US House Honours Burma’s Suu Kyi.” BBC America. 18 December 2007. 21