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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 13:44 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Obituary: A courageous and patient man

Michael Aris: Understood the Burmese people came first

Michael Aris, the husband of the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has died of prostate cancer on his 53rd birthday.

The British academic succumbed after a long illness without realising his wish to see his wife one last time.

Described as a "courageous and patient man", Dr Aris has campaigned tirelessly for Burmese democracy and received hundreds of awards on his wife's behalf.

[ image: Ms Suu Kyi and Michael Aris]
Ms Suu Kyi and Michael Aris
They included the Nobel Peace Prize she was given in 1991 for her efforts to bring peace and democracy to Burma.

A senior research fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan studies at St Antony's College, Oxford University, he wrote numerous books and articles on Buddhism in Bhutan and Tibet.

The establishment of Oxford's specialist Tibetan and Himalayan studies centre was his life-long dream.

Visa denied

Dr Aris was born in Cuba, where his father was a career officer with the British Council. His mother was the daughter of a French-Canadian ambassador.

He married Ms Suu Kyi on New Year's Day 1972 in a simply Buddhist ceremony in England, but it was always on the understanding that they would have to be apart if the Burmese people needed her.

They have two sons, Kim and Alexander.

In the final months of his life, Dr Aris repeatedly attempted to gain a visa to visit his wife in Burma, but his wish was frustrated by the military government's stalling.

Ms Suu Kyi declined to leave the country after her return there to nurse her mother in 1988, for fear that she would not be readmitted.

Five brief visits

She was placed under house arrest by Burma's military government in 1989 following anti-government demonstrations that propelled her to the head of the opposition movement.

Mr Aris had only seen his wife on five brief occasions in the last 10 years - the last being in Rangoon for Christmas in 1995 after her release from house arrest.

Appeals by several countries, prominent individuals and organisations were made to the Burmese authorities to allow Mr Aris a visa.

The United States, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Pope were among them, but none were successful.

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