Aung San Suu Kyi collected on Tuesday the EU democracy prize that had been awarded 23 years ago while she was under house arrest.
Freedom of thought is yet to become the birthright of every Myanmar citizen, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday, as she collected a European Union democracy prize that had been awarded 23 years ago while she was under house arrest.
The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been handed out annually by the European Parliament since 1988.
“Freedom of thought is essential to human progress,” Suu Kyi said on Tuesday during a ceremony at the legislature’s plenary in the French city of Strasbourg. “Our people are just beginning to learn that freedom of thought is possible.” “We need still to make a lot more progress before we can say we are where Professor Sakharov would have wished us to be… a place where freedom of thought was the birthright of every single citizen of our country,” she added.
Suu Kyi got caught up in Myanmar’s 1988 pro-democracy protests when she returned to care for her ailing mother after years of living and studying abroad.
She became a leader of the pro-democracy movement and spent a total of 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010, while the country was ruled by a military junta.
“I made a choice, I made it out of my own free will, this is why I’ve never thought of it as a hardship or a sacrifice,” Suu Kyi told journalists after the European Parliament ceremony.
“It’s certainly been worth it, because I think our movement gave our people hope,” she added. “Of course hope is not enough, but the very fact that we have been able to make our people understand that they can improve their own lives has been worth it.”
Today, Suu Kyi is a member of parliament after the 2010 elections brought to power reform-minded President Thein Sein. She has expressed hopes of becoming Myanmar’s next president, although this would require constitutional changes ahead of the 2015 elections.
The Nobel laureate is a “great symbol of freedom and democracy,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said before handing Suu Kyi the 1990 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.
Suu Kyi is on a two-week tour of Europe that will also include stops in Britain and Italy.
Her main message is about the need for the EU to push more strongly for changes to the Myanmar constitution, which she says is hampering a full democratization of the country.