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June 19, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi Thanks Britain for Years of Support

by VOA News

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi thanked the British people for two and a half decades of support during the start of her visit to Britain Tuesday, on her 67th birthday.

She left the country and her husband and sons there 24 years ago when she returned to Burma to take care of her sick mother.   She spent most of the next 20 years in some form of detention under the military dictatorship in her country.   

The Nobel Peace laureate was greeted with a standing ovation on arrival to the London School of Economics where she addressed a packed auditorium.

She said people like the audience combined with her stubbornness gave her strength to continue.  She also talked of the difficulty of being separated from her husband Michael Aris and their sons Kim and Alexander for 24 years.  

Aung San Suu Kyi was separated from her family for many years after her return to Burma in 1988 because she refused to leave the country for fear that she would not be allowed to return. Her sons were teenagers at the time and her husband died of cancer in 1999 without her at his side.  

She told reporters Tuesday that she is responsible for the choices she made for the sake of Burma.

"I don't justify it. I don't justify it. I think that everybody must accept their responsibility for what they do," said Aung San Suu Kyi. "I accept responsibility for what I did and what I am and so must my sons. They must also accept responsibility for what they are not just put it on the fact that their mother was not there or their father died early, this we could always have all kinds of reasons for being what we are. In the end I think we, each of us, have to accept responsibility for what we are."

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Aung San Suu Kyi attended the Oxford University in the 1960s and lived with her family there until her return to Burma.   She visited the university town later Tuesday and planned to celebrate her birthday with her family there.  

The university will present her with an honorary degree awarded to her in her absence in 1993.

Later in the week, Aung San Suu Kyi will address both houses of parliament in London - a rare honor.  

England is the last leg of Aung San Suu Kyi's emotional visit to Europe, which also included stops in Switzerland, Ireland and Norway.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide election in 1990, but Burmese military leaders refused to relinquish power.

She was released from her latest house arrest in November 2010 following an election which led to political changes in Burma after half a century of military rule.  A new, nominally civilian government took office in March of last year.  

After her release, Aung San Suu Kyi resumed active leadership of the National League for Democracy, which she co-founded, and won election to an open seat in parliament in April.