Aung San Suu Kyi: Warm British Welcome No Challenge to Burmese President

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says Burma's president should not see the warm welcome she has received during her first trip to Britain in 24 years as a challenge.

She was due to receive an honorary degree and give an address Wednesday at Oxford University, a day after a packed auditorium at the London School of Economics greeted her with a standing ovation.

The Nobel Peace laureate said in a television interview the reception is a sign of “how much the world wants Burma to change in the right direction.”

A nominally civilian government took office last year, and Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliament seat in an April election after spending years under house arrest in Burma. She said she does not view her new position as a perilous one.

“I think of it as a challenge. It's a challenge not just to me and my party but it's a challenge to the government as well, and of course to the people in general, because they must play their part.”

She also said Tuesday it is not up to her to convince those who fled Burma to return, and that each person must make their own decision.

“I would only present to them what I think the improvements have been, what progress I think we've made and what opportunities will be open to those who want to take part in the process. But as each one has as a different set of talents to offer, I can't speak for everybody.”

In another interview, she told the BBC she would want to lead the Burmese people after future elections, if she could “lead them in the right way.”

Burma's constitution effectively bars Aung San Suu Kyi from being president because of a rule against those whose relatives are foreign citizens. She married a British national, and their two children were born abroad and do not live in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi attended Oxford University in the 1960s and lived with her family there until her return to Burma in 1988.

The university will present her with an honorary degree awarded to her in her absence in 1993.

On Thursday, she will address both houses of parliament in London – a rare honor.

England is the last leg of Aung San Suu Kyi's emotional visit to Europe, which also included stops in Switzerland, Ireland and Norway.

She left Britain and her husband and sons there when she returned to Burma to take care of her sick mother. She spent most of the next 20 years in some form of detention under the military dictatorship in her country.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide election in 1990, but Burmese military leaders refused to relinquish power.

She was released from her latest house arrest in November 2010 following an election which led to political changes in Burma after half a century of military rule.

After her release, Aung San Suu Kyi resumed active leadership of the National League for Democracy, which she co-founded.