LOS ANGELES - On the final leg of a whirlwind U.S. tour, Aung San Suu Kyi says democracy is an evolutionary process. The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010. She has since won a seat in her country's parliament. A pro-democracy icon, she now holds the key to opening her country to the outside world, together with Burmese President Thein Sein. The two had overlapping visits to the United States.
Aung San Suu Kyi spoke mostly in Burmese and immigrant Kyaw Dhu Ya came to hear her talk to several thousand people. He says Aung San Suu Kyi is the Burmese community's leader. He came to support her because she fought for democracy.
Her tour took the Burmese parliamentarian to Capitol Hill, where she was given the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded in 2008. It was one of many honors she received after her release from many years of house arrest. She met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and paid visits to Burmese communities in Kentucky and Indiana, among other stops.
The Los Angeles audience also drew Burmese and other immigrants, like Prem Guragain and his wife, Brinda.
“Because we respect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has done so much for peace and democracy," he said. "We're from Nepal, the land of Lord Buddha and land of Mount Everest, so we are here to support what she has been doing for humanity.”
One man in the audience has been following the career of the pro-democracy advocate for years. Documentary maker Howard Worth directed a film called “Douye”, which means “Our Cause” or “Our Rights.” It looked at how the work of Aung San Suu Kyi has inspired many around the world.
“She is a profound emotional center for so many people, people you wouldn't expect,” he said.
A handful of protesters drew attention to the Rohingya Muslim minority group in Burma, which international human rights groups say is subject to severe persecution. Koko Naing is a Rohingya immigrant who says Aung San Suu Kyi has not addressed his people's plight, including the relocation of thousands.
“It's ethnic cleansing," he said. "So I want Miss Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up and provide a long-term solution for the Rohingya minority of Burma.”
Aung San Suu Kyi was asked, if she were president of Burma today, how would she handle the refugee problem. The opposition leader said that is a hypothetical and not a practical question.