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Suu Kyi Collects Prize Awarded in 1990

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) holds her 1990 Sakharov Prize, besides European Parliament President Martin Schulz, during an award ceremony in Strasbourg, France, Oct. 22, 2013.
More than two decades late, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has finally collected the European Union's Sakharov Prize for human rights.

She won the prize in 1990. But the Burmese military, which ran the country until 2011, did not allow her to collect it.

Speaking before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday, the Burmese opposition leader said it was a joyful occasion for her, but the work of bring full democracy to her country was still in progress.

"[Andrei Sakharov] would have wished us to be in a place where freedom of thought was the birthright of every single citizen of our country. And to achieve this position, of a society which would have had the approval of Professor Sakharov, we will have to work a lot harder. Our people will have to do the greater part of the work, but I do believe that all of you can help us in our endeavors," she said.

During her trip to Europe, the Nobel Laureate has been calling on EU countries and the United States to support her push for changes to the Burmese constitution.

The opposition National League for Democracy [NLD] wants to lift a ban that prohibits citizens with foreign spouses or children from running for president. This directly affects Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to run in 2015 because her children are British nationals.

The opposition also wants to abolish the special place in politics the current constitution reserves for the military.

An NLD spokesman, Nyan Win, told VOA's Burmese service that the opposition party currently is conducting a survey on public attitudes towards changes to the constitution.

"Most of the respondents agree to amend the constitution. Especially in one township in Pago Division [north of Rangoon], they even insist on rewriting the whole constitution. But we are still waiting for more data, which is still coming in," said Win.

He said the survey will continue until mid-November.

Burma has won praise for its political reforms of the past two years, including elections that allowed Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to win a significant number of seats in parliament. The military and its political allies still control the legislature, however, and wield considerable power.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.