Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was reunited Tuesday with a son she last saw a decade ago, in an emotional moment at the Yangon airport 10 days after she was released from detention.
Kim Aris, 33, was finally granted a visa by the military regime after waiting for several weeks in neighboring Thailand. Just before walking into the airport terminal, the smiling 65-year old Suu Kyi, who was released Nov. 13 after more than seven years under house arrest, told reporters, “I am very happy.”
Through her lawyer Nyan Win, Suu Kyi thanked the authorities for issuing the visa to her son, who resides in Britain and last saw his mother in December 2000. He has repeatedly been denied visas ever since by the ruling junta.
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy, was first arrested in 1989 when Kim was 11 and elder son Alexander 16. She has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.
In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Suu Kyi acknowledged that her years of political work had been difficult for her family.
“I knew there would be problems,” she said of her mid-life decision to go into politics. “If you make the choice you have to be prepared to accept the consequences.”
Suu Kyi, who was largely raised overseas, married the British academic Michael Aris and raised their two sons in England.
But in 1988, at age 43, she returned home to take care of her ailing mother as mass demonstrations were breaking out against military rule. She was quickly thrust into a leadership role, mainly because she was the daughter of Aung San, the country’s martyred founding father.
Elder son Alexander accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on his mother’s behalf in 1991 – while she was serving an earlier term of house arrest – and reportedly lives in the United States.
Michael Aris died of prostate cancer in 1999 at age 53, after having been denied visas to see his wife for the three years leading up to his death. Suu Kyi has never met her two grandchildren.
While her family supported her, she said her sons had suffered particularly badly.
“They haven’t done very well after the breakup of the family, especially after their father died, because Michael was a very good father,” she said. “Once he was no longer there, things were not as easy as they might have been.”
But she added that she always had their support: “My sons are very good to me,” she said. “They’ve been very kind and understanding all along.