Her father, Gen. Aung San, is revered as the country's founder after it gained independence from the British in 1948. And as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for being "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless," the expectation and pressure she faces to be the moral face of Myanmar is undeniable.
Recent Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai has called on her fellow laureate to condemn the "tragic and shameful treatment" of Myanmar's Rohingya population. At least six other Nobel laureates have publicly urged her to defend and protect the Rohingya. "It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country," said 85-year old Archibishop Desmond Tutu in his appeal to Suu Kyi. "If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep."
Suu Kyi has ostensibly made it her life's work to fight for human rights and democracy, which has made her silence over the Rohingya crisis so grating for her supporters to see. But even before the most recent developments, Suu Kyi had displayed a disconcerting sensibility regarding Muslims in Myanmar.
Her attitude toward some of the ethnic groups which make up Myanmar's population was clear for anyone to see over years of media interviews.
In a 2013 television interview with BBC News, she disputed the characterization of the violence being perpetrated against the Rohingya at the time as ethnic cleansing. She was criticized then, too, for not standing up for the persecuted minority, who were being kept in internment camps while Buddhist nationalists and firebrand monks spread anti-Muslim sentiment across the country.
"This is what the world needs to understand, that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well," she said. When journalist Mishal Husain argued that the violence had inordinately affected Muslims and caused tens of thousands to flee, Suu Kyi didn't mention Muslims at all in her answer.
"I think there are many many Buddhists who have also left the country for various reasons and there are many Buddhists who are in refugee camps. This is the result of our sufferings. I think if you live under a dictatorship for many years, people don't learn to trust one another."
According to a book published later, Suu Kyi reportedly emerged from the interview remarking: "No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim."