Oxford welcomes Aung San Suu Kyi

After being held under house arrest as a political prisoner for more than twenty years in Burma, the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi should arrive in Oxford later today. During her visit she is to be awarded with an honorary doctorate in civil law by the university and the prestigious title of ‘Freedom of the City’ by Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Alan Armitage. She will also speak to members at the world-famous Oxford Union.

Aun San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the Burmese independence leader Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, and since 1988 she has fought for democracy in the midst of Burmese military dictatorship, advocating a peaceful resistance against the regime. Her efforts made such a big impact in Burma that in the general elections of 1990 her party gained 56% of the votes (figure according to the Wikipedia article on the pro-democracy leader). In 1991 she was placed under houses arrest and although the country’s military junta made it clear to her that she was free to return to her family in Oxford she remained in custody, fearing that if she left her country, she would never be allowed to return.

Tomorrow’s  visit forms part of the Burmese politician’s European Tour, which centred on an awards ceremony in Oslo on Saturday, where she was finally able to collect the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to her in 1991. In addition to this, on Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi will speak at the Houses of Parliament and meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in London.

Her visit to Oxford, however, has particular significance as, before her return to Burma more than two decades ago, she lived with her son and her late husband in the city after having studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at St. Hugh’s college. In fact, Mimi Nye, director of TJC, remembers seeing her speaking to a group of students just when she visited Woolfson College just before the leader’s return to Burma, as well as seeing her on several occasions as she passed along Walton Street on a bicycle! Oxford is therefore a city that holds a lot of personal memories for this great political leader and so, in anticipation of her arrival, the city prepares to welcome not only a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prestigious and courageous political leader but also an old friend.

News and information sources: coverage on the BBC news website, the Guardian online, Sky news online and the Wikipedia article on Aung San Suu Kyi and Oxford City Council website.


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