|KAI NESTMAN/SPECIAL TO COAST REPORTER
FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2013
Aung San Suu Kyi is known by many people for having spent much of the past 20 years under house arrest in Myanmar. As the chairperson of a pro-democracy party, Suu Kyi is a symbol in her efforts of non-violence and peace while engaging with the repressive military-backed government in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” — a prize that was accepted by her two sons and British husband. Suu Kyi was held under house arrest in Burma and could not risk leaving the country to claim her prize.
She was released from house arrest in November 2010, following bouts of freedom and detention, but full restrictions on Suu Kyi’s movement and associations were not relaxed until 2011.
Last year in a landslide by-election victory, Suu Kyi was elected to sit in parliament along with other members from her National League for Democracy Party. This marked significant progress for a military power that had denied Suu Kyi’s previous victory as a member of parliament. The military junta has enforced a strong influence over the country since its 1962 coup d’état.
Myanmar has experienced significant change over the past year. Canada’s foreign minister visited the country in a first-of-its-kind stopover, and most notably U.S. President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar following a preparatory visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2011.
Obama’s visit marked progressive announcements by the government of Myanmar to ease border conflict, allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) greater access to prisons, and investigate political detainees. The change of pace in Myanmar brought forth statements by the governments of Canada and the U.S. to begin slowly easing strict sanctions meant to apply political pressure to Myanmar and its military-backed government.
Conflict has been ongoing in Myanmar and most recently has continued in the northern state of Kachin where internal struggles have existed between ethnic minorities and the government.