Suu Kyi receives highest US civilian award

2012-09-20 08:06
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at the US Capitol in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks after being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at the US Capitol in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met President Barack Obama at the White House and received the highest congressional award on Wednesday.

Suu Kyi, making a coast-to-coast US tour, held private talks with Obama in the Oval Office after being feted by lawmakers in the ornate US Capitol, where she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal for her long fight for democracy in a country ruled by army generals since 1962.

"This is one of the most moving days of my life, to be here in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land," she said.

"Among all these faces are some I saw while I was under house arrest, and some I saw after I was released from house arrest," said Suu Kyi, acknowledging strong support from US lawmakers during her 17 years of house arrest.

The Oval Office setting for the first meeting between the two Nobel Peace laureates afforded Suu Kyi's visit some of the trappings normally reserved for visiting foreign presidents and prime ministers.

But the White House, apparently treading carefully lest they allow the Suu Kyi events upstage Myanmar's government, kept the meeting low-key. News photographers were allowed in briefly but not television cameras or print reporters. Obama and Suu Kyi met for about half an hour.

Foreign policy accomplishment

Obama, seeking re-election in November, seized the chance to meet Suu Kyi on the second day of her US tour.

The encounter could help him highlight what many see as a foreign policy accomplishment of his administration in helping to push Myanmar's generals onto the path of democratic change.

The president expressed his admiration for Suu Kyi's courage and personal sacrifice in championing democracy and human rights over the years, the White House said in a statement after the meeting.

Obama welcomed the Asian nation's democratic transition and the recent progress made by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party and President Thein Sein, the White House said.

At her congressional medal ceremony, both Suu Kyi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the presence in the audience of a minister representing Myanmar's president and the country's new ambassador in Washington.

"This task has been made possible by the reform measures instituted by President Thein Sein," said Suu Kyi in her acceptance speech.

Amazement


Earlier on Wednesday, the United States removed sanctions that blocked any US assets of Thein Sein and the speaker of Myanmar's lower house of parliament and that generally barred American companies from dealing with them.

Thein Sein and lower house speaker Shwe Mann, once members of the former military junta who have won international praise for driving reforms in the 18 months since the military ceded power to a quasi-civilian government, were both removed from the US Treasury's list of "specially designated nationals".

Thein Sein will visit New York for the annual UN General Assembly next week, when he is expected to meet senior US officials.

US lawmakers and officials who turned out to honour Suu Kyi expressed amazement - some tearing up - that she had made the journey from house arrest to Washington.

"I might have hoped, but I'm not sure I expected, that one day I would have the honour of welcoming my personal hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, to the Congress of the United States," said Republican Senator John McCain.

Clinton said she expected change to come in the country also known as Burma, but did not know how long it would take.

Lighter moments


"It's almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you are here in the rotunda of our great capitol, the centrepiece of our democracy as an elected member of your parliament," she said.

The solemn ceremony was sprinkled with lighter moments, as Clinton related a trip to Myanmar last year, where she quoted the speaker of the lower house of parliament as saying, "Help us learn how to be a democratic congress, a parliament."

"He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach themselves by watching old segments of The West Wing," Clinton said, referring to the fictional US television series about presidential politics. "I said, 'I think we can do better than that, Mr Speaker'."

Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy in opposition to the military junta that held her under house arrest for years. Her last stay in the United States was in the 1970s as a United Nations employee.

Suu Kyi's election to parliament in April helped to transform the pariah image of Myanmar and persuade the West to begin rolling back sanctions after a year of dramatic reforms, including the release of about 700 political prisoners in amnesties between May 2011 and July.

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, early in his term with no concrete foreign policy successes on his record, leading critics to say he was rewarded mostly for eloquent speech-making.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  thein sein  |  barack obama  |  aung san suu kyi  |  john mccain  |  us  |  myanmar  |  sanctions
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Minister promises high security on election day

Police will be out in full force in Manenberg on election day, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has told residents of Cape Town's gang-plagued township.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Langa - 06:40 AM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive Northbound
    DELAYS between Turf Hall Road and the N2 Highway
  • Friday Rondebosch - 06:38 AM
    Road name: M5 Northbound
    DELAYS between Ottery and the Kromboom Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB

There are no straight lines in nature. The Samsung  GALAXY...

From R3725.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.