Image: Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks at her son Kim Aris after he arrived at Yangon's airport
Soe Zeya Tun  /  Reuters
Aung San Suu Kyi and her son Kim Aris after he arrived at Yangon's airport on Tuesday. Just before walking into the airport terminal, the 65-year old democracy leader, who was released Nov. 13 after more than seven years under house arrest, told reporters, "I am very happy."
updated 11/23/2010 5:29:01 AM ET 2010-11-23T10:29:01

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was reunited Tuesday with her youngest 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 65-year old Suu Kyi, who was released Nov. 13 after more than seven years under house arrest, told reporters, "I am very happy."

Tears welled up in Suu Kyi's eyes when she first saw her son. A smiling Suu Kyi slipped her arm around his waist as the two posed briefly for photographers and then they walked out of the airport holding hands.

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Clearly showing support for his mother's cause, Aris bared his left arm before airport security and the public to reveal a tattoo of the flag and symbol of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi looked at it closely and smiled. The flag and symbol feature a fighting peacock and a star.

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.

'I knew there would be problems'
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.

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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."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Suu Kyi wrestles with how to harness appeal

  1. Transcript of: Suu Kyi wrestles with how to harness appeal

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: Another story of freedom that has captured the world's attention tonight, the story of Aung San Suu Kyi . The pro-democracy leader was released from house arrest yesterday, triggering a wave of thousands of people to rush to her home, as you saw in this broadcast last night. It happened in Myanmar . Some still call it Burma . And the question there tonight is, what's next? Our report tonight from John Irvine of our British broadcasting partner, ITN .

    JOHN IRVINE reporting: Aung San Suu Kyi leaving home a free woman for the first time in seven years. Quickly word spread around Rangoon the lady was out and about heading to a political rally. If she was hoping for a low-key drive to party headquarters, well, it just hasn't worked out that way. She's managed to bring the center of Rangoon virtually to a standstill. When she finally made it to her party offices, there were thousands of well wishers. Her affinity with the masses appears to be undiminished. But how might she choose to harness her appeal? Interestingly, she told the crowd that she bore her jailers no ill will. Later, at a chaotic news conference, I asked her about future relations with Burma 's generals. How are you going to use your moral authority? Are you willing to compromise with Burma 's rulers, or will your opposition be totally?

    Mr. AUNG SAN SUU KYI: I certainly would not like to use whatever authority I have, moral or otherwise, to incite hatred. This is what we should not do. I am for national reconciliation.

    IRVINE: So far she has chosen her words carefully and has not openly criticized Burma 's regime. She says the generals have nothing to fear from her. But she's not what they're afraid of, it's her popularity.

Timeline: Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar, a mountainous republic in southeastern Asia, has been under military rule since 1962. Formerly known as Burma, the resource-rich former British colony has spent most of its post-independence history under authoritarian dictatorships.  Perhaps its most famous citizen is democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Click on the dates below to find out more.

Sources: Reuters, The Associated Press, BBC, Nobelprize.org, Burma Watch International | Link |

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