Aung San Suu Kyi visits UN, New York

  • World
  • Saturday, 22 Sep 2012

NEW YORK: Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has visited the United Nations and received a new award as she paid tribute to unknown fighters for democracy in her country.

"Tonight I must pay tribute to my colleagues whose names are unknown to the world," said Suu Kyi as she received the 2012 Global Citizen Award from the Atlantic Council, a think tank that promotes constructive US leadership and engagement in international affairs.

"Those unknown soldiers are so much bigger than others like me who are known and who had been given so many honors," she added.

The award was presented to her by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, at a dinner at New York's Plaza Hotel.

"I don't get intimidated easily: politics, money, power, economy, crisis," said the IMF chief. "But I tell you something, when it's resilience in the face of adversity, when it's simplicity in the face of success, when it is kindness, when it is spirituality, I get unbelievably intimidated ... I'm intimidated to introduce tonight Aung San Suu Kyi."

Mentioning years spent by Suu Kyi under house arrest and her determination to carry on her fight for Myanmar democracy, Lagarde said that Suu Kyi's life was "our message."

Other award recipients this year included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, ex-UN high commissioner for refugees Sadako Ogata of Japan, and American musician and humanitarian Quincy Jones.

"By recognizing these individuals with a Global Citizen Award, we were not simply looking to congratulate them, but also to amplify their achievements and inspire others to follow their path," said former US senator and Atlantic Council Chairman Chuck Hagel.

Myanmar was ruled by an iron-fisted junta for decades but, since taking office last year, a reformist government under former general Thein Sein has freed political prisoners and allowed Suu Kyi's party into electoral politics.

Freed in 2010 after 15 years under house arrest, Suu Kyi received a rapturous welcome on her first visit to Washington since her release.

Her visit coincides with a three-day trip by Burmese President Thein Sein to the United Nations, and there have been concerns she will upstage his visit, despite his work pushing through reforms.

Earlier this week, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the top honor bestowed by the legislature, and met at the White House with President Barack Obama.

During her trip to the United States, Suu Kyi endorsed the removal of sanctions on Myanmar, also known as Burma, which were imposed to punish the junta for its formerly oppressive rule in the Southeast Asian country.

Before her awards ceremony at the Atlantic Council, Suu Kyi visited UN headquarters where she met with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who recalled that the Myanmar democracy leader worked in New York at the United Nations headquarters from 1969 to 1971.

"I would like to welcome her home," Ban said. "She is now a global symbol of human rights. We have great expectations and hope that she will lead this path of reconciliation and greater participatory democracy and development of her country."

Suu Kyi said that to achieve genuine democracy for Burma, all people "have to learn to work together."

The agenda of Suu Kyi's unprecedented 18-day US tour includes nearly 100 events across the United States. The Myanmar democracy leader will head on September 25 to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to meet the sizable Burmese community that has resettled in the Midwestern city.

Her other stops include Louisville, Kentucky as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The hectic schedule has worried some of Suu Kyi's supporters. The 67-year-old fell ill in June during a punishing tour of Europe.- AFP

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