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Aung San Suu Kyi Says Nobel Prize Dispelled Isolation

  • Selah Hennessy

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi tours the Nobel Peace center in Oslo, Norway June 16, 2012.

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi tours the Nobel Peace center in Oslo, Norway June 16, 2012.

21 years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to Norway to speak about the time when she was named to receive the award in 1991, when she was held under house arrest in Rangoon. Suu Kyi said the peace prize rescued her from isolation and reunited her in spirit with the world community.

Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland praised the democracy leader's long struggle for human rights and said she is "a precious gift to the world community." Turning to Suu Kyi, he said her Nobel lecture Saturday was one of the most remarkable events in the history of the peace awards.

"Please know: In your isolation you have become a moral voice for the whole world," Jagland said.

Due to her detention in 1991, Suu Kyi's husband and her two sons traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel award on her behalf.

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on the podium, second from left, receives standing ovations the Norwegian Nobel Committee her speech at the Peace Nobel Prize lecture at the city hall in Oslo, Saturday, June 16, 2012.

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on the podium, second from left, receives standing ovations the Norwegian Nobel Committee her speech at the Peace Nobel Prize lecture at the city hall in Oslo, Saturday, June 16, 2012.

Addressing the Nobel Committee in Norway's capital Saturday, she recalled how that recognition long ago gave her strength during the isolation of house arrest.

"It had drawn me back into the wider human community," she explained. "And, what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten."

Suu Kyi was either imprisoned or held under house arrest for most of the following two decades, and she refused to even try to leave Burma, out of fear that she would not be allowed to return to her homeland. Her trip to Europe now is only her second journey abroad since she was freed in 2010.

She spoke about the importance of world peace in her speech Saturday. The global aim, she said, should be to create a world where no one is displaced, homeless or hopeless.

"War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored there will be the seeds for conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages," she stressed.


Burma had been ruled by a military junta since the early 1960s - until its first general election in two decades in 2010, and a civilian government was installed the following year.

Suu Kyi said the recent reforms are a positive sign, but she warned the world not be excessively optimistic about how rapidly Burma is changing.

Trouble, she says, continues.

"Fires of suffering and strife are raging around the world. In my own country hostilities have not yet ceased in the far north," she noted. "To the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today."

Sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in western Burma earlier this month. Official reports say 28 people have died and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. The country's president has declared a state of emergency and sent in army troops to keep the peace.

Suu Kyi's 17-day tour of Europe began in Switzerland. She also will visit Britain, to address Parliament, and Ireland, to receive an award from Amnesty International in Dublin, and France.

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