It was Ms. Suu Ky’s first visit to the United States in over 40 years.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently honored Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. It was Ms. Suu Ky’s first visit to the United States in over 40 years and her first public address during the visit. According to Secretary Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi, represents “the struggle for freedom and democracy, for human rights and opportunity, not only in her own country but [is] seen as such around the world.”
Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of the last two decades under house arrest because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma. In 1991, a year after her political party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming majority in an election the military junta later nullified, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010.
Following the first elections in two decades in November 2010, the new Burmese government embarked on a reform process. In the last year, the government has released hundreds of prisoners, including many prisoners of conscience. It has also passed a law, in consultation with the International Labor Organization, allowing for organized labor and the formation of unions, and has eased restrictions on the media.
Opposition parties, including Ms. Suu Kyi’s, National League for Democracy, or NLD, have been legalized. In April 2012, she stood for parliament and she and her fellow NLD candidates won 43 of the 45 seats they contested. The NLD is now the largest opposition group in the parliament.
“Ms. Suu Kyi’s courage and moral leadership,” said Secretary Clinton, “never wavered through the years of house arrest and persecution. And she and other opposition leaders have now joined with President Thein Sein and the new government to take the courageous steps necessary to drive these reforms.”
But Secretary Clinton cautioned that the reform process is far from done:
“Political prisoners remain in detention. Ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence continues to undermine progress toward national reconciliation, stability, and lasting peace. Some military contacts with North Korea persist. And further reforms are required to strengthen the rule of law, increase transparency, and address constitutional challenges.
“But the United States is committed to standing with the government and the people of Burma to support this progress. We’ve taken steps to exchange ambassadors, ease economic sanctions, and pave the way for American companies to invest in the country in a way that advances rather than undermines continued reforms.”