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A 21-year struggle finally ends

With her resolve and peaceful resistance in the face of repression, Aung San Suu Kyi remains a beacon of hope for many in Myanmar after almost five decades of military rule.

world Updated: Nov 14, 2010 00:53 IST

With her resolve and peaceful resistance in the face of repression, Aung San Suu Kyi remains a beacon of hope for many in Myanmar after almost five decades of military rule.

So fearful are the generals of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's popularity that they have kept the 65-year-old locked up for 15 of the past 21 years.

While some see her as a figure from the past, no longer so relevant following the emergence of a new generation of pro-democracy activists, for her supporters she represents the best chance of a better future.

Little is known about what she plans to do if freed, apart from a desire to join Twitter to reach out to supporters worldwide, but few expect her to abandon her struggle.

"The commitment is still there," said Andrew Heyn, Britain's ambassador to Myanmar who met with her last year when she was allowed talks with Western diplomats. "She's well informed, she's committed, and the message I got when I spoke to her... this is a woman who wants to stay involved," he said.

Suu Kyi swept the National League for Democracy to a landslide election win in 1990, but the regime never accepted the result.

Her party boycotted the nation's first election in 20 years, held on November 7. The move left the opposition divided and attention is now on whether Suu Kyi can unite it again.

Suu Kyi entered Myanmar's political arena at a relatively late stage, after spending much of her life abroad in India and then Britain. She returned to Yangon in 1988 to nurse her sick mother, as protests erupted against the military.

Suu Kyi was quick to take on a leading role in the pro-democracy movement. Alarmed by the support she commanded, the generals ordered her first stint of house arrest in 1989.

Her many years in detention have seen her live a spartan existence of early meditation, spy novels and rare chocolate treats.

Her struggle has also come at a high personal cost: her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the junta refused him a visa to see his wife. Suu Kyi refused to leave Myanmar to see him, certain she would never have been allowed to return. She has not seen her two sons for about a decade and has never met her grandchildren.