Aung San Suu Kyi Urges Britain To Support Democratic Moves in Burma

Posted June 21st, 2012 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged Britain to support moves toward democracy in her country during a historic address to the British parliament.

She told lawmakers of both houses of parliament Thursday that the support of people in Britain and elsewhere in the world could push Burma further on its path to democratic change. She said if the right steps are not taken now, the process might falter and another opportunity could take a long time to come.

“It is an opportunity for which we have waited many decades. If we do not use this opportunity, if we do not get things right this time round, it may be several decades more before a similar opportunity arises again.”

While she commended the reforms taking place under President Thein Sein, the Nobel Laureate also said that without establishing strong democratic institutions, the process will not be sustainable.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the first person who is not a head of state to address Britain's parliament. She made the rare speech at Westminster Hall after meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street.

The two last met in Burma in April, when Mr. Cameron announced the lifting of sanctions against the Southeast Asian country in recognition of its recent political reforms. She took the opportunity Thursday to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Burmese people.

“I am very grateful to the prime minister for all the programs that they're preparing to help establish genuine democratic institutions in Burma. Eventually, ultimately, it is by strengthening the people and empowering them that we will be able to build up a genuine democratic society.”

The British government announced Thursday that President Thein Sein will visit London in the coming months for talks with Mr. Cameron.

Aung San Suu Kyi's emotional visit to Britain where she lived with her husband and sons until 24 years ago is the last stop on her European tour, which also took her to Switzerland, Ireland and Norway.

Wherever she went during her 17-day tour of Europe, she received accolades for her unwavering stance on democracy during years of detention in Burma.

She said Burma's President Thein Sein should not view the warm welcome she has received as a challenge. In a television interview, the democracy leader said the reception is a sign of “how much the world wants Burma to change in the right direction.”

Burma's nominally civilian government elected in November of 2010 came to power in March of last year, replacing the country's long-ruling military leadership after half a century. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her latest house arrest in November 2010 and won a parliament seat in April of this year.