Why it is really so special that Aung San Suu Kyi is traveling abroad
Sanne van Oosten
Don’t opposition leaders go to neighboring countries all the time? Think again, in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi this is very special. Not only has she not left the country for 24 years, she hasn’t left the country at the highest imaginable personal cost.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese woman who raised a family in England. She has been in Myanmar since 1988, when she flew from her family in England to take care of her dying mother. In that same year of 1988 political unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression led to pro-democracy uprisings. Aung San Suu Kyi stepped up as leader of this movement. Thousands protesters from all walks of life stood up for their beliefs, often inspired by massive speeches by Aung San Suu Kyi. In the end, the government killed thousands of protestors and threw Aung San Suu Kyi into house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s commitment to the cause came at high personal cost. In 1995 she had seen her husband for the last time. But in 1997 he was diagnosed with cancer which later turned out to be terminal. Even though she was free to leave Myanmar whenever she wanted, she knew that she couldn’t do it because she knew she would never be allowed back into her country once she had left. If she walked the plank, she’d walk it for good, and never again be able to fight for her country again. A country that is very much in need of a fearless opposition leader like herself.
After the April elections, the National League for Democracy (NLD) headed by Aung San Suu Kyi won 40 of the 45 seats up for election. Even though they now only have 40 of the 440 seats in parliament, this was a breakthrough for Myanmar. Since then, economic sanctions have been loosened and the government has shown some reform.
Aung San Suu Kyi has withstood oppression and chose to stay in her country at the highest personal cost. She sacrificed decades of her life for the fate of her country. That’s why it is so special that she is now traveling abroad.