In late 2010, Burma's leading pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, walked free after seven continuous years of house arrest imposed by Burma's military rulers. Thousands of Burmese turned out to greet "The Lady," as she is affectionately known in Burma."We haven't seen each other for so long," Suu Kyi told the jubilant crowd, "I have so much to tell you." Indeed. Burma's most popular politician and most vocal critic of the Burmese military had been out of sight, and off limits, to the Burmese people and the world for almost fifteen of the past twenty-one years.
Burma (also known as Myanmar) has a long and tortured history, and Aung San Suu Kyi's early adult years gave no clue that she would become an iconic hero in Burma's democratic resistance to military rule. Suu Kyi's famous father had led the fight for Burma's independence in 1947. General Aung San expected to assume the leadership of Burma after the British granted the country its independence in 1948. However, he was assassinated. Sun Kyi was only two years old at the time, but her father's dream of a unified, democratic Burma cast a long shadow on her life. In 1962, a military general seized power and closed the door of Burma to the outside world. Suu Kyi was out of the country, living overseas in India, the U.S., Japan, Bhutan, and finally England, with her British husband and two sons. But in the summer of 1988, she returned to care for her dying mother. It was then that Suu Kyi unexpectedly got caught up in the biggest uprising in Burma's modern history. Burmese students and Buddhist monks poured into the streets to peacefully protest actions by the military junta-only to be gunned down by the hundreds by soldiers.
Suu Kyi has not set foot outside Burma since that fateful time in 1988. Knowing that the military regime will not allow her to return if she leaves, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has remained in Burma, enduring extreme isolation, the threat of death, and personal pain and sacrifice, including the chance to see her dying husband one last time. Despite it all, "The Lady" has not backed down. She remains as determined as ever to see Burma emerge from its isolation and join the family of democratic nations in the world. "Freedom and democracy," she believes, "are dreams you never give up."
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