Inside the relationship between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband

Aung San Suu Kyi was a member of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy until November 1990, when the military took power. As a young university student and labor rights activist, she spent part of…

Inside the relationship between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband

Aung San Suu Kyi was a member of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy until November 1990, when the military took power. As a young university student and labor rights activist, she spent part of the next three decades under house arrest. At the time of her release, it was widely believed that she would launch a national reformist campaign. However, she chose to remain silent when the military opened fire on unarmed protestors outside a Yangon hospital in 1989. This led to years of international criticism and the NLD suffered a major defeat when the party’s parliamentary majority was wiped out in 2008.

After a new NLD-led government was elected in 2015, her government was criticized for arbitrarily trying Rohingya Muslims as war criminals and for not doing enough to halt the violence. She finally left the country in 2016 after the military agreed to abolish the repressive junta laws. She attended a United Nations summit in December 2017 where she was highly criticized for failing to address the plight of refugees fleeing Myanmar. She also returned to London to attend the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April, only to be denied entry by an immigration official who later said he had reason to believe her husband was living in the UK illegally. She arrived a day later in Myanmar and was allowed to return.

In September 2016, her NLD government granted her a honorary knighthood. The Myanmar Government paid Aung San Suu Kyi an annual stipend of US$300,000 as chair of the NLD until her death.

Aung San Suu Kyi married Michael Aris on April 14, 1969. He was a Polish citizen who had studied under Paul Gleeson, a sociologist and political scientist at Oxford University, where they met. He studied for two years before obtaining his MA in 1959. He started working at the World Bank as a political economist and later joined the Communist Party of India. He soon became a party member and fled to the UK when protests against the Soviet Union began in the 1960s. Aris was denied diplomatic status and forced to remain in the UK. He spent the following years working as a physician, travelling the world and teaching at various universities.

In 1990, Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi both attended Oxford University. In 1991, Aris joined an American evangelical church. He met his future wife, a nanny with whom he shared a religious group, through an American missionary.

She became Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1991. Aris stayed with her and held Aung San Suu Kyi’s position as president, even though his immigration status was in question. Aris’s legacy and influence on his wife’s politics remained during her years of imprisonment.

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