YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi saw her younger son Tuesday for the first time in a decade, in an emotional reunion at the Yangon airport 10 days after she was released from detention and 10 years after they were last together.
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 in her 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 they walked out of the airport holding hands.
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 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.
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 his older brother, Alexander, was 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 midlife decision to enter politics. "If you make the choice you have to be prepared to accept the consequences."
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.
Her husband, 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.
On Wednesday, Suu Kyi and Kim plan to visit the famed Shwedagon pagoda. She has typically paid her respects there on each release from detention, but she waited to make this week's trip until Kim arrived.
Suu Kyi was largely raised overseas and initially settled with her husband and sons in England.
But in 1988, 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.
She led her party, the National League for Democracy, to victory in 1990 elections, but the junta refused to recognize the results. The first vote since was held this year, but the league refused to participate, charging that it was being held under unfair and undemocratic conditions. As a result, the party was disbanded.
The party has appealed its dissolution, but the High Court threw the case out Tuesday. Nyan Win said the party is pursuing other legal channels to continue its fight.