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    » 06/22/2012, 00.00


    Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall asks for "practical help" for Myanmar's reforms

    Burma's opposition makes an historic address to the British parliament. The Nobel Prize laureate urges "democracy-friendly investments" and international cooperation to build democracy in her country. She refers to displaced people in the country's north, west and east, and describes her trip to Europe not as a "sentimental pilgrimage to the past" but as "an exploration of the new opportunities at hand". Her speech was carried live on TV.

    London (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".

    The 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 last year.

    Alternating 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".

    "My 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."

    Stressing 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."

    On that, 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 official visit.

    Ms Suu 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.

    The Nobel Prize laureate did not leave out the conflicts that still affect northern, eastern and western Burma, calling for practical help to the process of national reconciliation.

    She insisted especially on the importance of dialogue over short-term economic development to build a prosperous nation in the future.

    For this 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 war-torn areas.

    Speaking 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."

    Her address 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 England.


    Click here for Aung San Suu Kyi's address to both Houses of Parliament, broadcast live on the BBC.

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    See also

    21/06/2012 GREAT BRITAIN - MYANMAR
    Historic Speech of Aung San Suu Kyi to the British Parliament
    The afternoon meeting at Westminster Hall; an honor reserved in the past only to a few Heads of State and Benedict XVI. Followed by an interview with Prime Minister Cameron. Yesterday she received her doctorate at Oxford University, where she studied during her London period. For her 67th birthday, a face to face with the Dalai Lama.

    13/08/2012 GREAT BRITAIN - ASIA
    London 2012: US overtakes China as top medal winner
    The 30th Olympiad is history. The official handover was made to Rio de Janeiro, host city of the 2016 Games. After its triumph in 2008, China takes second place, as Chinese media complain about unfair treatment. Amid competitions and records, faith (Bolt and Farah) wins over British relativism.

    13/09/2005 GREAT BRITAIN – CHINA
    A British newspaper charges: "The skin of executed convicts is used in Chinese cosmetics"

    An undercover investigation undertaken by journalists of the Guardian alleges that a Chinese cosmetics company uses the skin of people condemned to death to develop collagen. Research is also under way on the tissue of aborted fetuses.

    18/01/2008 CHINA – GREAT BRITAIN
    London seeks new investments from Beijing
    Premier Brown aims to increase China-Britain trade by 30%. Pressure on human rights and issues of world politics.

    02/08/2013 MYANMAR
    Burmese Dissident: no reforms or democracy with military (still) in government
    In a ceremony in memory of the victims of the prison of Great Coco Island, the former political prisoner Hla Nyo denounces “no real change in the country." He criticizes the president who talks about democracy, while continuing "detentions" and abuse. Ne Win, co-founder of the NLD, who spent more than 20 years in prison: "With the military in power, opponents still tortured in prison."

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