Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Suu Kyi prepares to receive highest US award


Wednesday, 19 September 2012 12:18 Mizzima News   

On her first full day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi said she supported easing the remaining US economic sanctions on her country, as lawmakers reportedly are planning to rescind import sanctions sometimes after the US elections.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Aung San Suu Kyi, the chair of the National League for Democracy and Member of Parliament from Kawmhu Constituency, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday,  September 18, 2012. Photo: State Department

Suu Kyi acknowledged the role of Burma’s President Thein Sein, a former junta general, who has unrolled democratic reforms in sectors including business, the media and financial affairs after five decades of repressive, military rule.

She will go to the Capitol’s Rotunda on Wednesday, where she will receive the US Congressional Medal, the country’s highest awared. The White House has not announced whether she will meet with President Obama.

In a sign of cooperation with the Burmese government, Suu Kyi invited a government minister, Aung Min, who is close to Thein Sein to accompany her on Wednesday to the ceremony in the Capitol building.

US media noted that her more than two-week US tour appears more carefully planned than a recent trip to Thailand where she raised concerns over upstaging Thein Sein who was to be in the country about the same time.

Thein Sein will arrivesin the US next week to speak to the UN General Assembly's annual gathering of world leaders in New York City.

For years, Suu Kyi consistently advocated US sanctions as a bargaining chip for pressuring Burma’s military to reform, but she acknowledged that times have changed.

“I do support the easing of sanctions because I think that our people must start to take responsibility for their own destiny,” Suu Kyi said on Tuesday at the United States Institute of Peace, a conflict resolution group. “We should not depend on US sanctions to keep up the momentum for democracy. We have got to work at it ourselves.”

Noting that members of her political party refused to take the oath of office at the start of parliament’s last session because of their disagreement over the wording surrounding the protection of the country’s constitution, she explained why they dropped their opposition.

“We are beginning to learn the art of compromise, give and take, the achievement of consensus,” she said. “It is good that this is beginning in the legislature, and we hope that this will spread out and become part of the political culture of Burma

“We are not yet at the end of our struggle, but we are getting there,” she said, after being warmly applauded by current and former officials when she arrived at the institute, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Noting the release of around 88 political prisoners in an amnesty on Monday, Suu Kyi said more than 200 political prisoners are still in Burma’s prisons, and there can be no genuine democracy until all are released.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Burmese government and the small faction of political opposition in the country’s parliament must work together to carry reforms forward.

“That is also key to guard against backsliding, because there are forces that would take the country in the wrong direction if given the chance,” Clinton said, referring to conservative elements in the military that oppose political changes that have weakened its control of the country.

Suu Kyi will spend four days in Washington to pick up her award and to meet with top political leaders. The White House has yet to announce whether she will meet Obama. Suu Kyi will also address human rights activists and meet Burmese journalists at Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

She will travel to New York, where she worked from 1969 to 1971 at the United Nations, to attend a high-level meeting organized by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, one day before Thein Sein addresses the General Assembly. She is also scheduled to speak at Yale and Harvard universities.

Suu Kyi will go to Kentucky to address the University of Louisville, before traveling to meet with one of America's largest Burmese communities in Fort Wayne, Ind. She will also visit San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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