Michael Aris: what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi's husband, who was he - and how did he die?

Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband hadn’t seen her for four years at the time of his death, and was refused entry to Burma by authorities

(Photo: Wikimedia)

The army of Myanmar has taken control of the country and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been placed under detention, in an apparent coup d'état.

An announcement on the military-controlled Myawaddy TV on the morning the country’s new Parliament session was to begin (1 February) said there will instead be a new election at the end of a one-year state of emergency.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned the military coup, criticising the “unlawful imprisonment of civilians".

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi pictured in February 2020 during a trip to Hehoe airport (Photo: THET AUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

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Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician and diplomat who has played a vital role in Myanmar's transition to partial democracy across a political career that spans over 30 years.

She is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the country’s first State Counsellor, a position equivalent to a prime minister that was created after the NLD’s landslide victory in the 2015 general election.

But people are also interested in Suu Kyi’s late husband, Micheal Aris.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Michael Aris?

Michael Aris was an English historian who wrote and lectured on Bhutanese, Tibetan and Himalayan culture and history.

He was born in Cuba in 1946, with his family moving to Britain shortly after. He was educated at Worth School in Sussex, and upon completing his degree in modern history at Durham University, spent six years as the private tutor of the children of the royal family of Bhutan.

How did he meet Aung San Suu Kyi?

Having met while at university, Aris and Suu Kyi married in a Buddhist ceremony in 1972. The pair spent a year in Bhutan before relocating to Oxford, where they raised their two sons.

In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma to care for her mother, but it was around this time period that she began to lead the country's pro-democracy movement.

St John's College provided Aris with an extended leave of absence so that he could lobby for his wife's cause, but he was repeatedly refused entry into Burma.

How did he die?

Aris was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, a diagnosis which was later found to be terminal, but the Burmese government refused to grant Aris the visa that would have allowed him to travel to the country to visit his wife.

Claiming they did not have the facilities to care for him, the authorities instead said Suu Kyi should leave to visit him.

However, she was only temporarily free from house arrest at the time (as an outspoken critic of the government, Suu Kyi spent almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010 under house arrest), and feared that if she were to leave, she would be refused re-entry.

Aris sadly lost his battle with cancer on his 53rd birthday in 1999. He had only seen his wife five times in the previous ten years, and had not seen her since their previous meeting in 1995.