Bono praises Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi for 1991 Nobel Peace Prize
Another milestone marking Burma’s improving political process came to light following a 21-year delay when a democracy leader finally claimed her Nobel Peace Prize.
More than two decades after being awarded the prize, Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to Norway to deliver her acceptance speech. It is being heralded by many, including music superstar Bono who said he is star struck by Suu Kyi, as one of the most remarkable moments in Nobel history.
Suu Kyi was awarded the prize in 1991 because of her efforts to bring democracy to Burma. Under her opposition political party, National League for Democracy [NLD], Suu Kyi lobbied for political reforms. She was then detained as a political prisoner and held under house arrest for almost 15 years.
Her most recent release occurred on Nov. 13, 2010, allowing her to become more active in the political scene. On April 1, 2012, Suu Kyi was elected to the lower house of Burmese parliament through NLD, symbolizing the political reforms within the country.
As part of a tour of Europe, Suu Kyi traveled to Oslo, Norway, to deliver her acceptance speech.
Suu Kyi receives standing ovation
Norwegian dignitaries and Buddhist monks clad in traditional clothing filled City Hall to listen to the Nobel laureate. Suu Kyi was overcome by her reception, a standing ovation. She told the audience the 1991 award helped her feel real again and that it helped in battling the depressing sense of isolation that the house arrest brought.
Suu Kyi went on to say, "Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world."
The 1991 award was positive, Suu Kyi said, because it showed the democratic movement in Burma had not been forgotten by the rest of the world.
Suu Kyi’s speech revealed her personal suffering along with Burma’s struggle to become a fully democratic nation. It was a call to reduce the world’s suffering and a modest appeal for democracy.
The acceptance speech came at a bittersweet time for Suu Kyi. Her country is reeling from violence between Muslims and Buddhists in West Burma.
“Over the past year there have been signs that the endeavors of those who believe in democracy and human rights are beginning to bear fruit in Burma. There have been changes in a positive direction; steps towards democratization have been taken,” Suu Kyi said in her acceptance speech.
“If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith. Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years.
“Some of our warriors fell at their post, some deserted us, but a dedicated core remained strong and committed. At times when I think of the years that have passed, I am amazed that so many remained staunch under the most trying circumstances. Their faith in our cause is not blind; it is based on a clear-eyed assessment of their own powers of endurance and a profound respect for the aspirations of our people,” Suu Kyi said.
Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland introduced Suu Kyi to deliver her speech. Jagland said, "Dear Aung San Suu Kyi, we have been waiting for you for a very long time. However we are well aware that your wait has been infinitely trying for you and one entirely of a different nature from ours.
"In your isolation you have become a moral voice for the whole world."
The two-week trip - seen as another milestone for Burma's political progress - included visits to Britain, Switzerland, Ireland, France and Norway.
It is her second recent international trip. She visited Thailand in May.
Her decision to travel is seen as a sign of confidence in the government of President Thein Sein, who has pursued a course of reform since coming to power last year in Burma's first elections in 20 years.
Suu Kyi continued the rest of her European tour with several public appearances. In Oslo, she met exiled members of the Burmese community.
While in Oslo, Suu Kyi made a public appearance with Bono as they both hosted a peace forum. Bono has been known to use his celebrity status to help alleviate human suffering and poverty.
Speaking during a press conference at the event, Bono, the lead singer of U2, discussed his reaction when he met Suu Kyi. A fan of Suu Kyi, he wrote about the political activist in his 2001 song, “Walk On.”
When asked about Bono’s song for her, she said, "I like the song because it's very close to how I feel that it's up to you to carry on.
"It's good if you have supporters. It's good if you have people who are sympathetic and understanding. But in the end, it's your own two legs that have to carry you on."
Bono spoke of his admiration for Suu Kyi: "It's really her non-violent position that I find so impressive.
"You get the feeling with Daw Suu that peace is not the absence of war around us but rather peace is the absence of war within us," he said. [Daw Suu is a Burmese term that means aunt.]
Suu Kyi returned the compliments to Bono, "I think there is always something that can be done, and we need people like you to do that. We need people like Bono. We must have Bono in on it!"
She also visited Britain where she spoke in Westminster Hall, urging British leaders for help in reforming Burma.
“This is the most important time for Burma, and this is the moment of our greatest need. And so I would ask that our friends, both here in Britain and beyond, participate in and support Burma's efforts toward the establishment of a truly democratic and just society."
Her trip to Britain was her first visit in 24 years. She left in 1988 for Burma and had not returned since.