US Lawmakers Welcome Passport Issuance for Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted May 8th, 2012 at 5:45 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. lawmakers have welcomed the news that Burma has issued a passport to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, allowing her to travel abroad for the first time in 24 years.

Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, expressed hope Tuesday that Burma's democratic leader can visit the United States, as he recalled meeting her more than a decade ago.

“It would be very exciting. It would be wonderful. I visited her, gosh, 15 years ago in her home, in imprisonment. And nothing would be more exciting, and I think I even talked to her about it. I said, 'Look, one day we look forward to welcoming you as a leader of Burma, having you come to Washington and being received the way you ought to be, and receive gratitude for your incredible example'. So, I hope so.”

Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said he was looking forward to greeting her in Washington.

“Congress has already awarded her a gold medal, and we look forward to the presentation. We are very proud of her, and we hope that this progress will continue in Burma.”

Members of Congress also called for vigilance in making sure Burmese leaders understand that democratic progress is a key condition for the easing of U.S. sanctions on Burma.

An official with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party said the passport, valid for the next three years, was received Tuesday in Rangoon. The document clears the way for the Nobel laureate's scheduled trip next month to Europe.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent much of the past two decades under military ordered house arrest, is expected to visit the Norwegian capital in June to finally receive her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in person. She is also planning to visit Britain, where she lived for years with her husband, now deceased, and two sons, until returning to her homeland in 1988.

At that time, she was required to turn in her passport. She has not traveled outside the country since then, fearing the military junta that held on to power until 2011 would not permit her to return.

In 1988, the Southeast Asian nation became the scene of violence as pro-democracy protests erupted across the country. Her party won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, but the military junta in power since 1962 refused to relinquish power.

A new nominally civilian Burmese government took power last year. A series of initiatives by the new government, aimed at promoting democratic reforms, have persuaded the United States and the European Union to begin lifting some sanctions.