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Authors: Peter Popham

The lady and the peacock

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The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi



Copyright © Peter Popham, 2011, 2012Pages xii–xiv and436are a continuation of this copyright page.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:Popham, Peter.The lady and the peacock : the life of Aung San Suu Kyi / Peter Popham.p. cm.Originally published: London : Rider, 2011.Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-1-61519-064-5 -- ISBN 978-1-61519-162-8 (ebook) 1. Aung San Suu Kyi. 2. Women political activists--Burma--Biography. 3. Political activists--Burma--Biography. 4. Women political prisoners--Burma--Biography. 5. Women politicians--Burma--Biography. 6. Burma--Politics and government--1988- 7. Burma--Politics and government--1948- I. Title.DS530.53.A85P66 2012959.105'3092--dc23[B]2012004652

ISBN 978-1-61519-064-5Ebook ISBN 978-1-61519-162-8

Jacket design by Susan MitchellCover photograph © Joachim Ladefoged/VII/CorbisAuthor photograph © Nick CornishBack flap photograph of Aung San Suu Kyi © Mario PophamMap onpage xiiby Rodney Paull

Manufactured in the United States of AmericaDistributed by Workman Publishing Company, Inc.First published in the United States in April 201210 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

In memory of Michela Speranza Bezzi

“I have never ceased to be moved by the sense of the world lying quiescent and vulnerable, waiting to be awakened by the light of the new day quivering just beyond the horizon.”

—Aung San Suu Kyi,Letters from Burma

“If they answer not your call, walk alone. . . . With the thunder-flame of pain ignite thine own heart, And let it burn alone.”

—Rabindranath Tagore, “Walk Alone”

“Oh this ruler of our kingdom, a pretty thing, a pretty little thing.”

—Old lady in Po Chit Kon village, Kachin state, singing to her grandchild



Map of Burma




1 Late Call

2 Debut

3 Freedom and Slaughter

4 The Funeral

5 Open Road

6 Her Father's Blood

7 Defiance


1 Grief of a Child

2 The Gang of Five

3 An Exotic at St. Hugh's

4 Choices

5 Superwoman


1 Alone

2 Landslide Victory

3 Long Live Holiness

4 The Peace Prize

5 Heroes and Traitors


1 Meeting Suu

2 Nightmare

3 The Saffron Revolution

4 The Peacock Effect




List of Names

Further Reading




Map of Burma with inset of Rangoon


1.Aung San, his wife Ma Khin Kyi and their first baby, Aung San Oo.

2.Aung San, his wife Ma Khin Kyi and their three children, Aung San Oo, Aung San Lin and Aung San Suu Kyi.

3.A silkscreen of Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi's father (Peter Popham).

4.Aung San Suu Kyi with school friends in the cast ofAnthony and Cleopatra(courtesy of Malavika Karlekar).

5.Tin Tin and Khin Myint, sisters who went to the same school in Rangoon as Suu and Ma Thanegi (Peter Popham).

6.St. Hugh's College, Oxford, where Suu was a student (Rachel Rawlings).

7.Suu and Michael on their wedding day in London, January 1, 1972 (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

8.Michael Aris with his identical twin brother, Anthony (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

9.Suu and baby Alexander (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

10.Suu with Michael's siblings and brother-in-law, plus dog (courtesy of the Aris family).

11.Suu and Michael in Bhutan with their new puppy (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

12.Suu, Michael and Alexander with Daw Khin Kyi (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

13.Suu with Hugh Richardson, Michael Aris's mentor in Tibetan studies (courtesy of the Aris family/Getty Images).

14.The Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, outside which Suu gave her crucial debut speech (Mario Popham).

15.A statue draped in gold inside the Shwedagon shrine (Peter Popham).

16.Pagan, Burma's most famous historical site(Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty).

17.A page from the campaign diary kept by Ma Thanegi, Suu's friend and companion.

18.Suu on August 17, 1995 with her friend and assistant, Ma Thanegi (courtesy of Ma Thanegi).

19.Suu, U Tin Oo and other members of the NLD's Central Executive Committee in early 1989 (courtesy of the Aris family).

20.Bertil Lintner, the veteran Swedish Burma-watcher based in Thailand, photographed in November 2010 in Chiangmai (Peter Popham).

21.Nita Yin Yin May, OBE: courageous information officer at the British Embassy and NLD activist imprisoned in 1989 (Peter Popham).

22.Suu's estranged elder brother Aung San Oo with his wife Lei Lei Nwe Thein in July 2007.

23.54 University Avenue, Rangoon, the family home where Suu was detained for more than fifteen years(STR/Stringer/AFP/Getty Images).

24.Suu at the gates of her house, giving a speech.

25.General Ne Win, known as “the Old Man” or “Number One.”

26.Sein Lwin, “the Butcher,” who briefly replaced Ne Win as head of state in 1988(AP).

27.General Than Shwe, who ruled Burma for eighteen years.

28.General Saw Maung, the ruling general purged in 1992 after he became mentally unstable.

29.Khin Nyunt as Prime Minister in 2004, shortly before he was purged.

30.General Maung Aye, who shared power with Than Shwe after Khin Nyunt was purged.

31.Nyo Ohn Myint, one of the first intellectuals to urge Suu to seize the opportunity to lead the democracy movement (Peter Popham).

32.U Win Tin, founder member of the NLD, during his nineteen years in jail.

33.The journalist, poet and political activist Maung Thaw Ka.

34.Suu and some of her “boys,” student members of the NLD who were her loyal bodyguards during campaign tours (courtesy of the Aris family).

35.Mountains and forest in Karen state, near the site of Manerplaw.

36.Suu with NLD cofounder U Kyi Maung (Nic Dunlop/Panos Pictures).

37.Landscape of lakes and hills in Karen state, near Thamanya (Mario Popham).

38.An image of Thamanya Sayadaw, the revered Buddhist teacher whom Suu visited (Peter Popham).

39.A video grab of Suu speaking at Monywa, hours before her attempted assassination (Burma Campaign UK).

40.Monks on the march in Rangoon, September 2007 (Mizzima News Agency, Delhi)

41.A monk covers his eyes against smoke during the uprising (Burma Campaign UK).

42.Suu pictured in the NLD's Rangoon headquarters during her meeting with the author in March 2011 (Mario Popham).

43.John Yettaw, Suu's unbalanced intruder.

44.Suu meeting her son Kim at Mingaladon Airport, Rangoon during his visits to her in 2011.

45.Suu welcomes Hillary Clinton to her home (Khin Maung Win/AP/Corbis).


INNovember 2010, Burma was preparing for its first elections in decades. Aung San Suu Kyi was in detention in her home, as she had been for the previous seven years.

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