Freedom of Dublin for Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

Thursday 14 June 2012 16.53
Aung San Suu Kyi will meet President Higgins on her Dublin trip
Aung San Suu Kyi will meet President Higgins on her Dublin trip

RTÉ News Deputy Foreign Editor Anthony Murnane looks at the life of Aung San Suu Kyi.

On 18 June, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits Dublin as part of her first trip outside Asia in over two decades.

Among her engagements will be a meeting with President Michael D Higgins. She will be met by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at Dublin Airport.

She will also attend a concert in her honour organised by Amnesty International in the Grand Canal Theatre and receive Amnesty's Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Afterwards she will sign the roll of honour and formally receive the Freedom of the City of Dublin, which she was awarded in 2000.

History

Aung San Suu Kyi will turn 67 the day after she leaves Ireland. She was first put under house arrest in 1989 when she stood up to the Burmese military junta campaigning for peaceful democratic reforms and free elections.

Demonstrations were violently suppressed and in 1990 when her party won elections the military nullified the results.

Ms Suu Kyi would spend 15 of the next 22 years under house arrest and was unable to leave Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, until this year.

Her father was the country’s father of independence. She was only two when General Aung San was assassinated in 1947. 

She lived abroad from 1960 before returning to a tense Rangoon in 1988.

Thousands were on the streets protesting for democratic reforms. She became a campaigner for democratic values travelling the country and staging rallies.

Her inspiration came from the non-violent methods of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

The demonstrations were suppressed by the army, who had seized power in the 1988 coup.

Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest for the first time a year later. During this time her husband, English academic Michael Aris, died of cancer in 1999.

The Burmese authorities gave her permission to visit her ailing husband, but she refused fearing she would not be allowed return.

In her absence she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1991. The committee chairman called her "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless".

It would be 21 years later before she would leave Burma again - confident now that she would be allowed return to her country.

Images shocked the world as recently as 2007 when democracy protests were violently suppressed by the military who opened fire on demonstrators.

Among the victims were Burmese monks - whose monasteries were raided by soldiers, the monks beaten and arrested.

Changes have followed.