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Entries in Aung San Suu Kyi (8)

Monday
Nov192012

Obama Praises Myanmar's Democratic Progress on Historic Visit

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(YANGON, Myanmar) -- Becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit this long-isolated nation, President Obama on Monday extended “the hand of friendship” to Myanmar as the country emerges from five decades of harsh authoritarian rule.  But he cautioned that the young democracy has “much further to go.”

“Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected,” the president told a subdued crowd at the University of Yangon.  “Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted.  As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.”

Showcasing one of the foreign policy accomplishments of his first term, he praised the “dramatic transition” that Myanmar has made as he attempts to lock-in the nation’s reforms and encourage additional progress.

Obama made history when Air Force One touched down at 9:35 a.m. local time.  The president, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was greeted by tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Yangon, including roughly 2,000 school children who stood shoulder-to-shoulder waving U.S. and Myanmar flags.

Obama’s first stop was at the government headquarters, where he met with reformist President Thein Sein.

“I’ve shared with him the fact that I recognize this is just the first step on what will be a long journey,” Obama told reporters, with Sein at his side.  “But we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities.”

While the U.S. uses the term “Burma,” the former name of the country, Obama referred to it as “Myanmar” -- the preferred terminology of the former military government -- when meeting with Sein.

“I shared with President Thein Sein our belief that the process of reform that he has taken is one that will move this… country forward,” Obama said.

Obama then made a personal visit to the home of opposition leader, and fellow Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, where she lived under house arrest before being released two years ago.

“One of my first stops is to visit with an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people, not just in this country but all around the world,” the president told reporters after their visit.  “Here through so many difficult years is where she displayed such unbreakable courage.  It’s here where she showed that human freedom and dignity cannot be denied.”

Speaking at the university -- the culmination of his visit -- with Suu Kyi and Clinton sitting in the first row, Obama warned that “no process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation” -- one of only two lines in his speech that received applause from the crowd.

“You now have a moment of remarkable opportunity to transform cease-fires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflict lingers,” he said.

Obama’s visit -- a brief six-hour stop on his whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia -- is seen as a symbolic validation of the country’s changes.  Human rights groups, however, have said the president’s trip is premature because the government continues to hold political prisoners and human rights abuses are ongoing.

In his remarks, the president noted that to protect freedom, those in power must accept constraints.

“That is how you must reach for the future you deserve -- a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many, and the law is stronger than any leader,” he said.

This journey to Myanmar is a first, but also a poignant last for Clinton.  In Yangon, she came down the air-stairs alongside Obama for what the White House calls her final trip with him as Secretary of State and her final official ride on Air force One as the architect of his foreign policy.  Clinton has said she will not remain for a second term.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep192012

Aung San Suu Kyi Picks Up Her Congressional Gold Medal in Person

File photo. State Dept (WASHINGTON) -- Four years after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was finally able to accept the honor in the United States Capitol in person Wednesday.
 
“The great honor that you have conferred on me will be a lasting memento of the steadfast support of the United States Congress for the democratic aspirations of my people,” she said in the US Capitol’s Rotunda.
 
Suu Kyi is celebrated for her defiant pursuit of democracy and human rights in Myanmar, also known as Burma. In 1989, Suu Kyi was put under house arrest by the Burmese government where she spent 15 of the next 21 years.
 
When Suu Kyi was originally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008, she was under house arrest, which makes her the first person ever to receive the award while incarcerated.
 
“From the depths of my heart, I thank you, the people of America, and you, their representatives, for keeping us in your hearts and minds during the dark years when freedom and justice seemed beyond our reach,” she added.
 
The ceremony brought out the House and Senate’s leadership as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former first lady Laura Bush, who has been an advocate for Burmese human rights.
 
The leaders paid tribute to Suu Kyi for her brave work over the years.
 
“I might have hoped, but I would never have expected that one day I would honor of welcoming my personal hero Aung San Suu Kyi to the Congress of the United States,” Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., said.
 
“The woman we honor today chose a far more difficult path,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “the path of Ghandi, the path of Dr. Martin Luther King...for the sake of future generations she would never know.”
 
As House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, officially awarded Suu Kyi with the Congressional Gold Medal she was welcomed to the podium by a standing ovation.
 
“This is one of the most moving days of my life,” Suu Kyi said. “A house undivided. A house joined together to welcome a stranger from distant land.”
 
While there was mostly a serious and joyous tone to the room there was also laugher. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted the Parliament of Burma had been watching the old segments of The West Wing to try and learn how to become a Democratic Parliament.
 
Since her release in November 2010, Suu Kyi has become a Myanmar opposition leader in parliament, and is still active in the human rights of all those in Burma.
 
“So as we honor her,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “a time that many of us feared that would never happen, it's good to recognize that one phase of her work may be over, but another phase, equally important, is just beginning and that the United States will stand with her.”
 
Suu Kyi is on a 17-day trip to the United States. On Wednesday night she will meet President Obama at the White House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Aung San Suu Kyi Receives Amnesty Award at Concert in Dublin

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/GettyImages(DUBLIN) --After accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi touched down in Dublin on Monday to attend a concert organized by Amnesty International and accept the organization’s most prestigious honor, the Ambassador of Conscience award.

Suu Kyi took to the stage at Electric Burma, facing thousands of spectators, supporters and activists as U2 frontman Bono presented her with the honor awarded to her in 2009.  She also finally signed the Roll of Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin awarded to her 12 years ago.

“This trip is very important for Amnesty International,” Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, told ABC.  “It’s a big celebration, but it’s also a reminder of the cruel fact that are so many prisoners of conscience and political prisoners still behind bars.”

Shetty called Suu Kyi a “symbol of hope” in a world full of “grim realities.”  He said that the Electric Burma concert was proof that the work of Suu Kyi and Amnesty bears fruit and inspires human rights work worldwide.

The head of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, also underlined the importance of hope and inspiration.

“It’s a celebration and it needs to be a lot of fun, but I think it’s more about inspiration,” said O’Gorman.  “It’s a moment we have to use to refocus our efforts, to make sure we continue to champion human rights, democracy and freedom in Myanmar or Burma, or anywhere else in the world where they’re under threat.”

The latest Amnesty International briefing on Burma, based on a mission to the county last month, outlined the persistence of two main issues -- the continued detention of political prisoners and the treatment of ethnic minorities.  Conflict between the Burmese army and various ethnic groups, such as the Kachin, Karen and Shan, has been taking place for years.

Suu Kyi first began championing human rights in her home country in 1988, after brutal military crackdowns on peaceful protests, demanding the establishment of civilian elected government.  She was under house arrest until late 2010, for 15 out of the last 24 years.  This April, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy won 43 out of 44 parliamentary seats.

“I am very excited, I never imagined I would see her in Dublin, you know?” said Eung Sen Phyo, a Burmese native who left the country almost 25 years ago, and who’s 12-year-old daughter presented Suu Kyi with a bouquet of flowers at Dublin airport.

“I would love to go and see the change happening in my country,” he added.  “Hopefully this is just the beginning.”

Hundreds of so-called prisoners of conscience remain in Burma, defined by Amnesty as people imprisoned because of their political, religious or other beliefs, usually in the absence of any kind of legal protocol.

In her Nobel address, Suu Kyi had said that “one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” and her message, that, despite recent developments, a lot of work in Burma remains to be done, was the theme of her address to Dublin crowds: “Troubles are not yet all over, and I’m confident that you will continue to stand with us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun162012

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Formally Accepts Nobel Peace Prize 21 Years Later

State Department(NEW YORK) -- Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi formally accepted her Nobel Peace Prize today, more than two decades after it was awarded to honor her fight for democracy.

"We have been waiting for you for a very long time," Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told Suu Kyi. "In your isolation, you have become a moral leader for the whole world."

Suu Kyi won the award in 1991 but for more than 20 years was either forbidden from leaving her country, or too afraid she would never be allowed to return. Saturday, as a free woman and member of parliament in a newly open Burma (now called Myanmar), she finally gave her acceptance speech.

"When the Nobel Committee chose to honor me, the road I had chosen...became a less lonely path to follow," Suu Kyi said. "The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart."

It was a remarkable moment.

A woman who had lived a difficult and lonely life as a prisoner of conscience was met by trumpet fanfare and an adoring crowd of dignitaries in Oslo's Town Hall, who gave her a pair of long standing ovations.

A Burmese musician played her favorite piece, the same one played here 22 years ago, when an empty chair marked Suu Kyi's absence.

Saturday, she spoke of her years under house arrest, when "it felt as though I were no longer part of the real world." What the Nobel award had done, she said, was send an unmistakable message, to her supporters and to the Burmese regime. "The Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world," she said. "We were not going to be forgotten."

She knows that challenges remain--for her country, and for human rights the world over. "I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience," she said. "Please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is too many." Like Mandela, for all her struggles, she has no appetite for revenge. "What I want most," she said on her arrival in Europe Thursday, "is reconciliation and not retribution."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun012012

Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Leaves Myanmar

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images(BANGKOK) -- Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left her country for the first time in more than two decades.

The opposition leader and former political prisoner addressed the World Economic Forum on Friday. She was met with a standing ovation and adoration by crowds of supporters in the streets, many of whom are migrant workers from her own country who fled to Thailand to find work.

And jobs are what Suu Kyi says her country needs the most.

After the military government held free elections in 2010, and Suu Kyi won her own seat in parliament in April, the U.S. and E.U. eased sanctions.  Suu Kyi is urging what she called “healthy skepticism,” saying corruption and inequality must be addressed before foreign investment can be most effective.

Suu Kyi plans more travel. She will go to Europe this summer to finally accept, in person, the Nobel Prize she won in 1991.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr182012

Suu Kyi to Leave Burma for First Time in Quarter Century

US State Department (LONDON) -- Aung San Suu Kyi will travel outside her native land for the first time in 24 years. The Nobel Peace laureate has accepted an invitation to visit the U.K. in June – and she will also go to Norway, where she was awarded the Nobel in absentia in 1991.

In the UK, she will visit Oxford, where she studied as an undergrad in the 1960s and lived for 15 years with her late husband.

Earlier this month, Suu Kyi became a Member of Parliament when her party won 43 or 44 local elections – the first elections in more than two decades. She takes her seat in parliament on April 23, although her debut may be delayed over a dispute concerning the oath of loyalty to the constitution, which Suu Kyi has pledged to amend.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr102012

Hillary Clinton Mixes Hollywood, Politics at Screening of "The Lady"

Astrid Riecken/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “thrilled” to introduce the screening of The Lady, a Hollywood movie based on the life of Burma democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Clinton thanked the film’s star Michelle Yeoh and director Luc Besson on Monday for managing to get her a copy of the movie to watch ahead of her historic trip to Myanmar last December, where she met Suu Kyi.  Clinton’s trip to the Asian country was the first for a U.S. Secretary of State in 56 years.

“This is a terrific movie,” said Clinton.  ”This film portrays a woman whose story needs to be in theaters and living rooms across the world.”

Yeoh, best known for her performance in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, was on a panel along with the film’s director and U.S. Special Representative for Burma, Derek Mitchell.  The award-winning actress called the secretary’s endorsement of the film her “proudest moment.”  Yeoh spent nearly a year preparing to play the human rights icon, including learning Burmese.

The screening, hosted by the Motion Picture Association of America, was not just a film premiere -- it provided an opportunity to reflect on the current state of politics in Myanmar.  Mitchell, who is expected to be named as the new ambassador to the formally rogue nation,  noted that while the movie focuses on Suu Kyi’s decades of detention fighting for democracy, the Nobel Peace Laureate will soon take her place as an elected official in Myanmar’s Parliament.

Both Mitchell and Clinton acknowledged that the country continues to have human rights issues that will need to be addressed before Myanmar will truly be a democracy, but they praised the progress that’s already been made.

Clinton joked that she told Suu Kyi that “she’s moving from an icon to an elected official.  Having made sort of the same journey to some extent I know that that’s not easy.  Now you go to parliament and you start compromising.  That is what democracy is all about.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr022012

Aung San Suu Kyi Wins Seat in Burma Elections

US State Dept photo by William Ng(WASHINGTON) -- Once under house arrest for 20 years in Myanmar, pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears ready to take a seat in parliament.

Supporters of Suu Kyi were claiming victory Sunday after historic elections in Myanmar, which the U.S. still calls Burma.

It was a far cry from the last time voters went to the polls. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner was still confined and her National League for Democracy had boycotted the elections.

What helped prompt this turn of events was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visits to Myanmar last December. It was the first time a U.S. secretary of state had stepped foot in the country in more than half-a-century.

The military has ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for decades but human rights have slowly gotten better since a civilian government with strong ties to the army assumed power in 2010.

Should foreign monitors determine that the election was legitimate and representative of the people's will, international sanctions against Myanmar could be lifted or eased.

Clinton announced last January that full diplomatic ties were being reestablished and the two nations would exchange ambassadors.

The White House issued a statement on the elections:

"We congratulate the people of Burma on their participation in the electoral process, and Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy on their strong showing in the polls.  This election is an important step in Burma’s democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the Government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency, and reform."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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