Aung San Suu Kyi, a 65-year old leader who is part of Myanmar’s parliament, visited the country Thailand. Many leaders visit other countries, but the reason this story has made headlines is because this is the first time Suu Kyi has stepped out of her country in 24 years. To understand why, let’s take a look at Myanmar’s history.
Myanmar, known as Burma until 1989, got its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Suu Kyi’s father was one of the country’s very famous freedom fighters. In 1962, a military government took over Myanmar and ruled it for a long time. In 1990, government elections were held and Suu Kyi’s political party was the winner. However, the military government that was ruling at the time refused to accept the election results, and did not step down. Suu Kyi peacefully protested the military regime. Since the 1990 elections, she has spent about 15 of the years under house arrest (a prisoner in her own home). During the times when she was not under house arrest, she refused to leave the country out of fear that the military regime will not allow her to come back. In 2010, elections were held again in Myanmar and a new government was elected. Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate, since she was still under house arrest at the time. Six days after the elections, Suu Kyi was released from the house arrest. Since then, she’s been allowed to join her political party and she even won a parliamentary seat earlier this year.
Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but she couldn’t receive the award herself since she didn’t leave Myanmar. In June, she is expected to make a trip to Norway where she’ll accept her prize. One of the quotes about Suu Kyi was that she was “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”. You often see Suu Kyi with flowers in her hair and wearing a longyi, a traditional Burmese wrap-around.
The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw and the largest city is Yangon. The country’s president is Thein Sein. The official language of the country is Burmese. One very popular food is mohinga, which is noodles in a fish soup. Myanmar is known as the “Land of Pagodas”, because there are many pagodas in the country. A pagoda is a place of worship with a distinct bell-shaped top. A traditional sport of Myanmar is chinlone. A group of players keep a cane ball in the air usually using their feet and knees. The aim is to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible. You can watch a video here:
Did You Know?
Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, is a big supporter of Suu Kyi.
Did You Know?
When Suu Kyi was released in 2010, she had spent 7 years in her home with very little communication with the rest of the world. The things that really surprised her when she got out were the fancy cell phones and the Internet.
Image Credits: More.wanna for mohinga soup image