Aung San Suu Kyi to be Honored by US Congress

Posted September 19th, 2012 at 2:30 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will receive the United States Congress' highest award Wednesday as she continues her landmark visit to America.

The Nobel laureate will be presented with the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. She was awarded the medal in 2008 while under house arrest in her homeland.

The 66-year-old, whose long struggle against Burma's military leaders has received bipartisan support in Washington, is also expected to meet with U.S. lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Afterward, she said she fully supports the easing of remaining U.S. economic sanctions against Burma.

But during a visit to Voice of America headquarters, she warned that the path to her nation's democratic future will not be irreversible until the army voices full support for the reform process.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said she is most troubled by the provision in Burma's constitution — drafted in 2008 by the former military junta — that allows for the army to take control of government when deemed necessary.

But she also credited President Thein Sein, a former general, for launching democratic reforms after taking office last year. Since then, the government has released hundreds of political prisoners. It announced Monday that it will set free more than 500 additional detainees jailed during five decades of military rule. Western governments have responded by lifting many harsh economic sanctions aimed at bringing about democratic change.

Referring to her 15 years under military ordered house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi said “I was on a path I had chosen.” She also said she was “perfectly prepared” to endure the hardships that she encountered during that time.

Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in the United States Monday for a 17-day visit that marks her first visit to America since her 2010 release from military detention. Part of her trip overlaps with next week's visit by Burmese President Thein Sein, who will address the United Nations General Assembly.

Other stops on her visit include the states of California, New York and Indiana. Fort Wayne, Indiana is home to one of the country's largest Burmese-American communities.