21 years after being awarded, Aung San Suu Kyi gives here Nobel prize speech

Published: June 16, 2012
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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives a standing ovation after giving her Nobel Lecture at City Hall in Oslo June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives a standing ovation after giving her Nobel Lecture at City Hall in Oslo June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is seen upon arrival at a Nobel ceremony in Oslo City Hall June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives a standing ovation after giving her Nobel Lecture at City Hall in Oslo June 16, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

OSLO: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally accepted her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Saturday after spending a total of 15 years under house arrest and said full political freedom in her country was still a long way off.

“Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal,” Suu Kyi said in her acceptance speech during her first trip to Europe in nearly 25 years.

“Hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out the journey that has brought me here today.”

Suu Kyi, the Oxford University-educated daughter of General Aung San, Myanmar’s assassinated independence hero, advocated caution about transformation in Myanmar, whose quasi-civilian government continues to hold political prisoners.

“There still remain such prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten,” Suu Kyi, 66, told a packed Oslo City Hall.

A day earlier, she arrived from Switzerland to a jubilant reception as dancing and chanting crowds filled Oslo’s streets and showered her with flowers.

Suu Kyi, who spent a total of 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and her release in late 2010, never left Myanmar even during brief periods of freedom after 1989, afraid the military would not let back in.

Her sons, Kim and Alexander had accepted the Nobel prize on her behalf in 1991, with her husband Michael Aris also attending the ceremony. A year later Suu Kyi announced she would use the $1.3 million prize money to establish a health and education trust for Burmese people.

She was unable to be with Aris, an Oxford academic, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and died in Britain in 1999.

Instrumental

Suu Kyi, who was elected to parliament in April, thanked Norway – a tiny Nordic nation of just 5 million people – for its support and the instrumental role it played in Myanmar’s transformation.

In 1990, the Bergen-based Rafto Foundation awarded its annual prize to Suu Kyi, a little-known activist at the time, after a Norwegian aid worker in South-East Asia highlighted her work.

The award provided lasting publicity for her non-violent struggle against the country’s military junta, putting her in the international spotlight and setting the stage a year later for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Norway has also provided a home to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an opposition television and radio outlet, which broadcasts uncensored news into Myanmar, in much the same way Radio Free Europe did behind the Iron Curtain decades earlier.

During her acceptance speech, Suu Kyi skirted the issue of sectarian violence between Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas, which has tested Myanmar’s 15-month-old government.

“We hope ceasefire agreements will lead to political settlements founded on the aspirations of the people, and the spirit of union,” she said.

The violence, which displaced 30,000 people and killed 29 by government accounts, stems from an entrenched, long-standing distrust of around 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas, who do not even hold citizenship, and much of Myanmar’s public regards them as illegal immigrants.

The crisis has also put President Thein Sein in a tight spot. His government is under pressure from rights groups and Western countries to show compassion towards the Rohingyas but a policy shift risks angering the public.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • BlackJack
    Jun 16, 2012 - 7:20PM

    More power to her.

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  • G. Din
    Jun 16, 2012 - 11:10PM

    We, Indians, will remember her for a splendid gesture which she made when Indian PM visited her country recently. When every international figure who visited Burma took the time to pay her tribute by visiting her at her home, she made it an exception not to wait for the visiting PM to visit her. She proceeded to visit the PM at his hotel. This was a tribute by her to India where she spent some part of her happy youth in New Delhi. We were apprehensive that she might not have forgotten how we ignored her during her ordeal of incarceration in her home, due to international politics. Evidently, she has absorbed the essence of Indian civilization – to be magnanimous in triumph!

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Jun 17, 2012 - 1:46AM

    One day the daughter of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi will become the Head of the State.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Jun 17, 2012 - 2:08PM

    Aung San Suu Kyi is an iconic figure not only for Burma, also for the world. No doubt she has many qualities to be a leader. Yet she is 66 and her health is frail. She should supervise a new generation of Burmese to carry on her legacy and let them govern the country.

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  • A J Khan
    Jun 18, 2012 - 12:10PM

    One such prize is held by Barrak Hussain Obama also for declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan and third one in offing.

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