Michael Vaillancourt Aris
27 March 1946
|Died||27 March 1999 (aged 53)|
|Resting place||St. Mary and St. Peter Churchyard |
Weedon Lois, South Northamptonshire, England
|Alma mater||Worth School|
St Cuthbert's Society, Durham University
School of Oriental and African Studies
Aung San Suu Kyi
(m. 1972; his death 1999)
Michael Vaillancourt Aris (27 March 1946 - 27 March 1999) was an English historian who wrote and lectured on Bhutanese, Tibetan and Himalayan culture and history. He was the husband of Aung San Suu Kyi, the current State Counsellor of Myanmar.
After being educated at Worth School in Sussex and upon completing his degree in modern history at St Cuthbert's Society, Durham University in 1967, Aris spent six years as the private tutor of the children of the royal family of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
Aris was an academic and lecturer in Asian history at St John's College and later at St Antony's College, Oxford. In the last years before his death, he helped to establish a specialist Tibetan and Himalayan Studies centre at Oxford.
Michael Aris's identical twin brother, Anthony Aris, similarly became a scholar of Tibetan studies, and founded Serindia Publications to focus on bringing Tibetan history and culture to modern audiences.
In 1972, Aris married Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he had met while at the university. They married in a Buddhist ceremony. After spending a year in Bhutan, they settled in North Oxford, where they raised their two sons, Alexander Aris and Kim Aris. During this time, he did postgraduate studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and obtained a PhD in Tibetan literature in 1978. In 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma at first to care for her mother but later to lead the country's pro-democracy movement. St John's College provided Aris with an extended leave of absence as a fellow on full stipend so that he could lobby for his wife's cause.
In 1997, Aris was diagnosed with prostate cancer which was later found to be terminal. Several countries, prominent individuals and organisations, including the United States government, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Pope John Paul II, made appeals to the Burmese authorities to allow Dr Aris a visa. The Burmese government would not grant him a visa to visit Burma, saying that they did not have the facilities to care for him, and instead urged Aung San Suu Kyi to leave the country to visit him. She was at that time temporarily free from house arrest but was unwilling to depart, fearing that she would be refused re-entry if she left, as she did not trust the junta's assurance that she could return.
Aris died of prostate cancer on his 53rd birthday in 1999, in Oxford. After 1989, when his wife was first placed under house arrest, he had seen her only five times, the last of which was for Christmas in 1995, after Suu Kyi had been released for the first time.