06/18/2012, 00.00
IRELAND - MYANMAR

Unity and Reconciliation: the European tour of Aung San Suu Kyi for peace in Myanmar

Lightning-fast visit of "The Lady" to Dublin, where she will receive a prize and attend a concert of Bono and Bob Geldof. Saturday in Oslo, the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, won in 1991 when she was under arrest. "Cautious optimism" for the democratic process and hope for an end to the internal conflicts. Over the next few days, Oxford, London and Paris.

Dublin (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A short Irish leg of the tour for Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, engaged in a two-week European tour, 24 years after leaving for Myanmar - from London, where she lived with her husband and two sons - and the beginning of her fight for democracy in the country. Leaving Norway, where on June 16 she gave the long-awaited acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize won in 1991, when she was under house arrest in Yangon, "the Lady" is planning a visit "of only six hours" (the organizers specify) to Dublin, where she will be awarded the national prize for freedom and attend a special concert titled "Electric Burma", with the participation of the leader of U2, Bono, and of Bob Geldof, the Irish singer and activist. After concluding her visit to Ireland, Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to England - first to Oxford, then to London - to receive an honorary doctorate in the famous university where her husband taught for many years.  The last leg of the journey that started in Switzerland will be France, with an official visit to Paris before returning to Burma.

The Burmese opposition leader, who tomorrow will turn 67, lived and studied for many years in London, before returning to Burma to assist her dying mother, and thus witness the massacres of 1988 ordered by the military junta in power. Since then, "The Lady" has dedicated her life to the democratic struggle in Myanmar, spending more than 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest; she was also unable to assist her husband, who died of illness in 1999. In the last three years of his life, Michael Aris was able to maintain only brief telephone conversations with his wife, because the military leadership rejected his more than 30 requests for visas to enter the country. Moreover, from the beginning of their marriage, their union begun in 1972 was conditioned by a possible "return" to Burma, to continue the work of her father Aung San, the independence hero.

Among the most significant and exciting moments of the European tour of "The Lady" was the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, won in 1991 and at that time accepted in her place by her husband and her sons Alexander and Kim Aris. In her speech at City Hall in Oslo, Norway, an emotional Aung San Suu Kyi (click here to watch the full speech) confirmed her intention to continue fighting for democracy in Myanmar and to facilitate "the process of national reconciliation" between the various souls and ethnic groups that compose it. In reference to the developments of recent months in Burma politics, with the transition from a military dictatorship to the semi-civilian government of President Thein Sein, Suu Kyi has spoken of "cautious optimism" by clarifying that her point is not "a lack of confidence in the future", but about not wanting to nourish an unreasonable and "blind trust" in the future.

Aung San Suu Kyi finally turned her thoughts to those who have been political prisoners for years in Burmese prisons, invoking their release and warning the audience of the risk that "these anonymous [defenders of democracy] might be forgotten." She added: "even a single prisoner of conscience, is always one prisoner too many," and everybody's effort is needed to secure their release. Finally the call to unity, as timely as ever following the violence of recent weeks between Burmese Buddhists and a Rohingya Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine, along the border with Bangladesh.

 

 

 

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