Suu Kyi receives Nobel Peace Prize 21 years late

OSLO Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:45pm EDT

1 of 20. Nobel committee members Thorbjorn Jagland (L) and Kaci Kullmann Five (R) look at Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after she gave her Nobel Lecture at City Hall in Oslo June 16, 2012. Aung San Suu Kyi finally accepted her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Saturday after spending a total of 15 years under house arrest and said full political freedom in her country was still a long way off.

Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

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OSLO (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally received her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Saturday after spending 15 years under house arrest, and said her country's full transformation to democracy was still far off.

"What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me," Suu Kyi said as the packed crowd, led by Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja, rose in a standing ovation at the ornate Oslo City Hall.

Suu Kyi, 66, the Oxford University-educated daughter of General Aung San, Myanmar's assassinated independence hero, said much remained to be resolved in her country.

"Hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out the journey that has brought me here today," said Suu Kyi, on her first visit to Europe in nearly a quarter of a century.

"There still remain (political) prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten," she said, wearing a purple traditional Burmese dress and looking strong and healthy after falling ill on Thursday.

Still, Suu Kyi - elected to parliament in April - said she was confident President Thein Sein wanted to put the country on a new path.

"I don't think we should fear reversal," she told public broadcaster NRK. "(But) I don't think we should take it for granted there is no reversal."

Suspending rather than lifting sanctions was also the right move to keep pressure on the government, she said a day after arriving from Switzerland to a jubilant, dancing and chanting crowd, which showered her with flowers.

"If these reforms prove to be a façade, then the rewards will be taken away."


Suu Kyi, who spent a total of 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and her release in late 2010, never left Myanmar even during brief periods of freedom after 1989, afraid the military would not let back in.

Her sons Kim and Alexander accepted the Nobel prize on her behalf in 1991, with her husband Michael Aris also attending the ceremony. A year later Suu Kyi said she would use the $1.3 million prize money to establish a health and education trust for Burmese people.

She was unable to be with Aris, an Oxford academic, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and died in Britain in 1999.

On Saturday, Kim and Anthony Aris, her late husband's identical twin brother, attended the ceremony.

Suu Kyi thanked Norway, a nation of just 5 million people, for its support and the instrumental role it played in Myanmar's transformation.

In 1990, the Bergen-based Rafto Foundation awarded its annual prize to Suu Kyi, after a Norwegian aid worker in South-East Asia highlighted her work.

The award provided lasting publicity for her non-violent struggle against Myanmar's military junta, putting her in the international spotlight and setting the stage a year later for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Norway has also provided a home to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an opposition television and radio outlet, which broadcasts uncensored news into Myanmar.

Suu Kyi acknowledged that recent violence between Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas in the northwestern Rakhine region was a test of Myanmar's transformation but she blamed lawlessness for the escalation.

The violence, which displaced 30,000 people and killed 50 by government accounts, flared last month with a rampage of rock-hurling, arson and machete attacks, after the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman that was blamed on Muslims.

"The very first time a crime was committed... they should have taken action in accordance with the rule of law," Suu Kyi told the BBC.

"If they had been able to do that, and to satisfy all parties involved that justice was done ... I do not think these disturbances would have grown to such proportions."

Tensions stem from an entrenched, long-standing distrust of around 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas, who are recognized by neither Myanmar nor neighboring Bangladesh, and are largely considered illegal immigrants.

Suu Kyi is also due to visit Ireland, Britain and France.

(Editing by Sophie Hares and Ralph Gowling)

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Comments (5)
mulholland wrote:
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, and Barrack Obama. This has got to be a joke.

Jun 16, 2012 8:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
apophthegm wrote:
Aung San Suu Kyi has demonstrated repeatedly that she is courageous, compassionate and virtuous. She is also committed, resolute and endowed with a formidable intellect. These attributes have made her an inspiration to all those who acknowledge the relentless righteousness and nobility of the human spirit and its power to drive the desire for morality, freedom, truth and justice. Her courage is exemplified by her enduring loyalty to her people despite intimidation, long years of isolation and the relentlessly stressful uncertainty of her status at the hands of a brutal Burmese regime. Tyrants will be alarmed at her vision and enduring appeal because they know as well as she does that at the core of the human spirit is a quest for rectitude that is unstoppable. Stalin once asked “How many divisions does the Pope have?”. Well, Christianity has none but (in common with all religions that recognise and respect the fundamentals of righteous behaviour) it has endured whereas the Soviet Union, to the universal joy of the civilised world, has not. The fact is that tyranny is unsustainable and the human spirit will always reject it in preference to the incandescent beacon represented by the universal values of freedom truth and justice which are essential in order to construct the framework on which individuals are able to pursue their personal quest for happiness and fulfilment. Aung San Suu Kyi deserves honours and accolades in profusion, the significance of which lies in the power they bestow upon her to persuade international investors to subordinate the profit motive to the moral imperative for the benefit of the Burmese people. If these organisations are not persuaded, no doubt she will expose them as corrupt violators of Burma’s recovery and in the process justifiably destroy their valuable reputations
Aung San Suu Kyi is right to be cautious about Burma’s development and she has recently stated that the path to democracy will not be smooth. She clearly recognises that democracy does not lead to freedom truth and justice. Rather the reverse is the case. An effective democracy is functional only when these universal values and principles are endemic in the society, in the people and in the institutions of the nation. No society is homogenous. Once the universal values of freedom truth and justice are made manifest then, inevitably, there will arise a plurality of views which will demand political expression. If this demand is denied conflict will be the result. Democracy is merely the essential mechanism by which the peaceful transfer of power occurs in order to give expression to an opposing set of views. From a top down perspective the institutions of the nation must recognise, tolerate and promote (1) freedoms, such as (a) freedom of association (b) freedom of speech (c) freedom from want and ignorance (2) Truth, which is encapsulated in the freedom of the press to expose corruption and criminality within government and financial and business institutions and (3) Justice, which embraces the independence of the judiciary whose primary function is to regulate the relationships between individuals and institutions (with protection of human rights at its core) and not for use as a coercive tool of the state. From a bottom up perspective the state must encourage individuals to recognise the imperative for personal morality and other characteristics such as self discipline, endurance and perseverance in the face of adversity as well as tolerance, kindness, compassion and all the other virtues of which Aung San Suu Kyi is the personification. Dilute these principles and the pendulum swings towards chaos and away from stability as the world is demonstrating currently with a vengeance. I wish Aung San Suu Kyi strength and wisdom in her noble endeavour

Jun 16, 2012 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jrpardinas wrote:
The Norwegian knuckle-heads in the Nobel committee had best hurry…

G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice are not getting any younger!

Jun 16, 2012 4:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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