WASHINGTON — Burmese Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi is promoting a message of cautious compromise on the third day of her U.S. visit. Her day began by answering questions from the American Burmese community.
It was an unusual scene for Americans -- but traditional for Buddhists. To see Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on the ground, revering monks who chant a blessing of love and kindness.
The activist met with the monks, who flew to the United States from Burma, and Burmese Americans from the Washington area.
These are her countrymen who watched her 19 years of house arrest from their homes in the US, where many of them fled the oppressive military regime. Now, she is their hope for democracy.
“There’s a great future for Burma, provided she’s able to succeed in the next election,” said Burmese American Bilal Raschid.
Some of these Burmese Americans came to this country following the pro-democracy uprisings in Burma in 1988. Others followed. But they all share one thing. They have never lived in their country during an election.
But now that Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament five months ago, many like Rosemary Than are thinking ahead. "When we left Burma, we thought we would always go back to retire there and I never thought the moment would come because it just seemed like such a faraway goal and at this time, this is a possibility,” Than said.
One of those In the crowd was Toe Lwin, who joined others to save Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003, when a mob attacked her convoy and tried to assassinate her. After that he escaped to the United States.
She was put under house arrest again. Aung San Suu Kyi called him up to see her after the speech.
“She said she wanted me to come back Burma. Yes, I agreed with her and I really want to go back Burma,” Lwin said.
But many are worried the new democracy reforms are not permanent. Aung San Suu Kyi suggested compromise.
“We need to work together with military, various groups and ethnic nationalities. We need to be cautious but not to have doubt. Being cautious, being fully aware is totally different from keeping doubt. Doubt will never help us to move forward,” she said.
At another speech with Amnesty International, she focused on youth. "It’s not only a matter of making sure that political prisoners are free, you, the young have to get to the root of WHY there are political prisoners," she said.
The day ended with democracy awards for five other Burmese activists. Of her years under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi says she never thought of herself as suffering, but as following a path. Many here thank her for paving that path toward freedom for others.