Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi tests her freedom after years of house arrest

July 12, 2011

Download Story
(AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Villagers welcome Aung San Suu Kyi as she visits Nyaung Oo market in Nyaung U village, Myanmar, Thursday, July 7, 2011.

Jerome McDonnell wants to share a little secret with you…He loves political portraits…of all stripes.

He has a hand painted plate of Kurdish political leader Massoud Barzani on his desk at WBEZ. But, out of respect for his family, he wouldn’t plaster the walls of their home with political portraits...until he saw Shepard Fairey’s portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi. Now it hangs above the piano in his living room. It was then he discovered how few people who entered his living room know who Aung San Suu Kyi is.

Suu Kyi is General Secretary of the National League for Democracy party in Burma. In 1990 general elections, her party won 59% of the national votes and 81% of the seats in Parliament. Burma’s military junta threw out the election results. Suu Kyi was already under house arrest by the junta and she remained detained for almost 15 of 21 years until her release on November 13, 2010.

But Suu Kyi is already testing the boundaries of her newfound freedom. She left Rangoon for the first time since the end of her house arrest and she gave two addresses for the BBC’s Reith Lecture Series. The addresses were taped secretly in her home. We’ll hear a lecture on dissent; the second of the two lectures. First, we talked about Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma with Maureen Aung Thwin from the Open Society’s Burma Project. She's also a trustee of the Burma Studies Foundation, which oversees the Center for Burma Studies at Northern Illinois University.