Pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar is in the middle of a historic 17-day trip to the United States. Having spent the better part of 20 years on house arrest after co-founding the National League for Democracy, in opposition to the military led government of Myanmar, Suu Kyi has become a global inspiration.
Since being released in 2010, she has been elected to Parliament and received numerous awards for the immense personal sacrifices she has made to bring reform to Myanmar. While in Washington, DC last week, Suu Kyi was given the highest award presented by Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal and has attended numerous events honoring her commitment to democracy, including a town hall meeting hosted by Amnesty International.
The event took place at the Newseum last Thursday. Human rights activists from far and wide came to hear Suu Kyi speak and ask her questions regarding her experiences as, what Amnesty International calls, a prisoner of conscious. She discussed the tactics she used to overcome such solitude, which included constantly reading and always acknowledging that whatever horrible thing has happened, will not seem as bad in 24 hours. She also explained that people should not be deliberately insulting to one another, but governments are not people and should therefore be prepared to take criticism. Amnesty International had taken an active role in the campaign to free Suu Kyi. Many protests had been held and letters sent by members of AI, calling for her release.
Suu Kyi’s freedom represents a slow but steady progress towards democracy in Myanmar, allowing for better relations with America. In 2011, Hilary Clinton was the first Secretary of State in 50 years to visit the Asian nation, and last Wednesday it was announced that the United States Government had lifted sanctions against Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and speaker of the lower house of Parliament Thura Shwe Mann.
The Obama Administration is taking steps to improve relations due to the removal of the military junta from power, and the election of a civilian president in 2011.