The Rise and Fall of Aung San Kuu Kyi: Now Facing a Coup, Not The Nobel Peace Prize Winner Icon She Was

·5-min read

Myanmar's military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids.

The army said it had carried out the detentions in response to "election fraud", handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement on a military-owned television station. A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking further comment.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won a general election by a landslide and Suu Kyi had assumed power in a specially created role of state counsellor in November 2015. She had then resolved to work on the country's myriad ethnic conflicts, attract foreign investment and continue reforms started by former general Thein Sein.

Early Life, Role in 1988 Uprising

Born as the youngest daughter of Aung San, the Father of the Nation of modern-day Myanmar, and Khin Kyi in Rangoon, British Burma on June 19, 1945, Suu Kyi graduated from the University of Delhi in 1964 and the University of Oxford in 1968, upon which she worked at the United Nations for three years.

Suu Kyi's role magnified during the 1988 Uprising and she became a national icon in Burma where the country went through civil unrest and protests against the then military government. She went on to become the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party she had formed along with the help of former military officials.

Even though her party won the 1990 elections by almost 80% votes, the military had refused to hand over the power. Suu Kyi, who was already under house arrest during this time, went on to remain so for almost 15 years out of 21 from 1989 to 2010, gaining worldwide support and garnering accolades for her democratic and non-violence methods of protest. Time Magazine in 1999 also termed her as one of the 'Children of Gandhi'.

Nobel Win, International Fame

Suu Kyi had said she chose non-violence as an expedient political tactic, and said in 2007, "I do not hold to non-violence for moral reasons, but for political and practical reasons." The Nobel Committee, while deciding to confer the prize to her had said, "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

Released from house arrest on November 13, 2010, Suu Kyi started consolidating her position and nearly a year later in November 2011, after a discussion with the NLD members, expressed that the party wished to re-register as a political party again.

Built-up to Rohingya Crisis

But after a 2015 landslide election win that followed decades of house arrest in a struggle for democracy that turned her into an international icon, Suu Kyi's fall from grace started in 2016 when the country's Rohingya crisis emerged once again, leading up to an attack on three police border posts in Rakhine State, killing nine police officers.

It led to Myanmar's military then carry out a security operation, resulting in some 70,000 people leaving the area for neighbouring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi was also accused of failing to use her "moral authority" to protect civilians, although she remained hugely popular at home.

Lars Heikensten, the head of the Nobel Foundation however, in an interview had said that although some of the actions Aung San Suu Kyi has taken as Myanmar's civilian leader are "regrettable" but her Nobel Peace Prize will not be withdrawn.

"We see what she's been doing in Myanmar has been questioned a lot and we stand for human rights, that's one of our core values," he had said.

The Gambia had also hit out at Suu Kyi's 'silence' over the plight of Rohingya Muslims after the Nobel peace laureate defended Myanmar against genocide charges at the UN's top court.

Suu Kyi's reputation has been tarnished by her decision to side with the military over the Rohingya crisis. She remained firm on her stance that the army faced an "internal conflict" and that the military conducted "clearance operations" after an attack by Rohingya militants.

Election Crisis

The Army chief Min Aung Hlaing had said last year that says the civilian government was making "unacceptable mistakes" in the run-up to the election. Suu Kyi had reacted to it and urged voters not to be intimidated. In November, the NLD claimed a resounding victory in the parliamentary polls but faced opposition from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which wanted a redo of the polls.

READ: Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi Detained as Military Stages Coup, Declares One-Year State of Emergency

The election commission had rejected claims of fraud but Myanmar's military had said it will protect and abide by the constitution and act according to law.

On Monday, Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior figures from the ruling party were detained in an early morning raid. Mobile internet and some phone services have also been disrupted in Yangon and soldiers deployed outside its city hall.

The military has said it is taking control of the country for one year under a state of emergency.

With inputs from Reuters