Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous stand promoting peaceful accession to power in Burma (Myanmar), a country held down by a brutal military dictatorship. The Human Rights Watch World Report in 2005 described Burma as “one of the most repressive countries in Asia.”

Daw Suu has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Jawaharlal Nehru Award from India. She has been called the “Champion of Democracy,” and “Heroine of Burma.” She has used her fame to ask people beyond the Burmese borders to join her struggle for freedom in Burma, saying “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” Asking for economic sanctions on Burma she has told the world that economics and politics can not be separated. “Injustice and lack of peace in (Burma) means injustice and lack of peace for the rest of the world because it threatens peace and justice everywhere else. We would like to remind those who are simply looking at the economic benefits that they hope to reap from Burma today that they are working against their own long term interest and the long term interests of the international community in general.”

Daw Suu’s promotion of democracy against military rule began in 1988 when she returned to Burma from London to nurse her dying mother. It was a time of massive peaceful demonstrations led by students who were demanding a democratic multi-party system. Because she was the daughter of an assassinated national hero, General Aung San, she was called upon to give public speeches. On 26 August she addressed a rally of 500,000 gathered in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. “I could not, as my father’s daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on,” she says. “This national crisis could, in fact, be called the second struggle for independence.” She also joined the newly-formed National League for Democracy (NLD) political party.

The uprising for freedom and democracy was squashed by the military, which killed thousands. It was, however, forced to call for a general election in 1990, and Suu Kyi’s party won 82% of the votes. The regime never recognized the results. Instead, Suu Kyi and others were detained by the regime, and she has been in and out of arrest ever since, sometimes in prison, sometimes under house arrest. Her house became the national center for the democracy movement. Refused even visits from her family, she has drawn strength from what she calls “engaged Buddhism,” the principle of loving-kindness put into action.