(AsiaNews) - Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged Britain to provide
her country "practical" help and encourage "democracy-friendly investment" so
that her people can have a better future. She highlighted these two points in
an historic speech delivered this afternoon to a joint session of the British
parliament in the 11th Century Westminster Hall. The 67-year-old leader,
affectionately known as 'The Lady', received the highest honour in Britain, the
right to speak to members of parliament and peers, something usually reserved
to few dignitaries, like Pope Benedict XVI, Nelson Mandela, and President
Barack Obama. When introducing her, Commons Speaker John Bercow described her
as "the conscience of a country and a heroine for humanity".
first woman other than Queen Elizabeth II and first Asian to speak in
Westminster Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi referred to her country by its British
colonial name of Burma throughout her address, saying that it needed,
constitutional reform, better education, respect for the rule of law, and an
end to the conflict with ethnic minorities in the north, west and east of the
country. She also stressed the importance of voting, as the best way to express
freedom of choice, a right she was able to exercise for the first time only
hilarity and irony, like when she compared the formality of the Burmese
parliament to the "the liveliness and relative informality" of the British
parliament, with remarks worthy of an elderly statesman, Aung San Suu Kyi said that
underlying her visit (to Britain and Europe) was a request for "for practical
help, help as a friend and an equal, in support of the reforms which can bring
better lives, greater opportunities, to the people of Burma".
country today stands at the start of a journey towards, I hope, a better future,"
she said. "So many hills remain to be climbed, chasms to be bridged, obstacles
to be breached."
that a lot remains to be done to build a true democracy in her country, the
leader of the National League for Democracy called on "our friends, both here
in Britain and beyond" to help "Burma's efforts towards the establishment of a
truly democratic and just society."
the 'Lady' greeted favourably the invitation of the British government to
Burmese President Thein Sein, whom Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned in her speech, to
visit Britain. In fact, he should come to London a few months from now on an
Kyi also encouraged "democracy-friendly investment" in her homeland, which
is rich in natural gas and raw materials, and could become the next "Asian
tiger", but is still poor and underdeveloped.
Prize laureate did not leave out the conflicts that still affect northern,
eastern and western Burma, calling for practical help to the process of
especially on the importance of dialogue over short-term economic development
to build a prosperous nation in the future.
reason, it is necessary to provide help to the tens of thousands of displaced
people, especially children, forced from their homes in ethnically mixed or
about her trip to Europe, which includes visits to Switzerland, Norway, Ireland,
Great Britain and France, she noted that her journey "has not been a
sentimental pilgrimage to the past but an exploration of the new opportunities
at hand for the people of Burma."
to parliament lasted about 30 minutes and was greeted at the end by a standing
ovation. This was followed by ceremonial greetings to British MPs and religious
leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, primate of All
Click here for Aung San Suu
Kyi's address to both Houses of Parliament, broadcast live on the BBC.