Of the many sacrifices Burma’s pro-democracy leader has made, none are as painful as being cut off from her family. But the sting of separation finally began to subside earlier today when, for the first time in more than a decade, Suu Kyi saw her younger son Kim Aris.
“I’m very glad and I’m very happy,” she told the AFP at the Rangoon Airport. Suu Kyi clutched her son’s hand as they made their way through a mob of well-wishers, reporters and photographers before heading to the family home where she has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.
As Aris made his way towards his mother, he removed his jacket to reveal a tattoo on his arm that depicts the symbol of the National League for Democracy (NLD), her political party.
Aris, who lives in Britain, had lingered in Bangkok for more than three weeks while he waited for Burma’s military junta to grant him a visa. Four days before his mother’s release on Nov. 13, he told The Bangkok Post that he “did not feel anything” about the possibility of receiving a visa.
“They’re unpredictable, these people,” he said. “It’s the same as ever. But there’s a little hope. We’ll see.”
He added that he wanted to discuss “family stuff—nothing political.”
Aris and his older brother Alexander were 11 and 16 years old in 1989 when their mother was first arrested in Burma. Their father, the Oxford academic Michael Aris, raised them in England. In 1991, the three of them accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of Suu Kyi who was serving her first period of house arrest.
In 1997, the boys’ father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and Burmese officials repeatedly denied him a visa, claiming they did not have the appropriate medical facilities to care for him. He died in 1999 at the age of 53.
Speaking to the Associated Press last week, Suu Kyi acknowledged that her political activism has been a struggle for her family—particularly her children.
“I knew there would be problems,” she said of her decision to enter politics at age 43. “If you make the choice you have to be prepared to accept the consequences.”