Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets Obama, receives US Congressional gold medal

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Aung San Suu Kyi
[File Photo]
Washington:  Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House and received the highest congressional award on Wednesday.

The two Nobel Peace laureates spoke at the White House Wednesday as the United States lifted sanctions on Burma’s president and parliament speaker.

Suu Kyi, who is on the 17-days U.S. tour, held private talks with Obama in the Oval Office, the closed-door meeting was part of the Burmese democracy leader’s first U.S. trip since the military government released her from 15 years of house arrest in 2010.

Members of the U.S. Congress from both chambers and both major political parties gathered to pay tribute to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was first awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008, while she was under 15 years of house arrest in Burma. 

On Wednesday, she was in the Capitol Rotunda in person, surrounded by congressional leaders, to receive the honour.

 “This is one of the most moving days of my life, to be here in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land,” Suu Kyi said.

A White House statement issued after the meeting said President Obama expressed his admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi’s courage, determination and personal sacrifice in fighting for democracy and human rights.  
Obama also welcomed the progress the democracy leader and Myanmar’s president have made by working together for reforms.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Wednesday lifted sanctions on Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and parliament speaker Thura Shwe Mann.  Without comment, the Treasury Department removed both from its list of individuals and companies accused of links to terrorism, narcotics or other illegal activities.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that Suu Kyi was not content just to remain a symbol of democracy, an icon, but is continuing the fight as a member of parliament in Myanmar.

Myanmar has released more than 500 political prisoners so far this month, and has freed thousands more over the past few years.  Activists and rights groups, however, say hundreds more are still being held.

In her 17 days in the United States, Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to visit the states of California, New York, Kentucky and Indiana, among others.  The city of Fort Wayne, Indiana has one of the country’s largest Burmese-American communities.
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