Suu Kyi to receive honor from Oxford University

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 7:30 EDT
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Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (L) speaks to Naw Star Ri (R) during a meeting with Myanmar refugees in Norway at the Rafto Foundation, a human rights organization, in Bergen on June 17, 2012. (AFP Photo/Sean Meling Murray)
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Aung San Suu Kyi was to be awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University on Wednesday in the city where she studied and brought up the family she would later leave behind.

The Myanmar democracy icon will be presented with an honorary doctorate in civil law at the prestigious seat of learning where she studied politics, philosophy and economics in the mid-1960s.

She will also deliver a speech in the grand surroundings of the university’s 17th century Sheldonian Theatre.

The ceremony is one of the highlights of her week-long trip to Britain, part of her first trip to Europe since 1988.

On Thursday she will make an address to both houses of the British parliament — a rare honour bestowed on only four foreign dignitaries since World War II.

In an interview with BBC TV on Wednesday, she confirmed her desire to lead the people of Myanmar “if I can lead them in the right way”.

She rejected the suggestion that her release from more than two decades of house arrest in 2010 had been a “confidence trick” aimed at getting sanctions on the country lifted.

She warned foreign companies rushing to invest in Myanmar since the military-backed civilian government began to implement reforms that they would be closely watched.

They would be exposed if they did not behave in a “democracy-friendly, human rights-friendly” way and follow “best practices”, she warned.

“And if they are not such companies and if they are doing business with cronies and with those who will use their new economic powers to consolidate the grip of the government, then I think we’ll have to expose them,” she added.

Her visit to Britain has been clouded by continued violence in western Myanmar where dozens of people have been killed and an estimated 90,000 people have fled clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and stateless Muslim Rohingya.

Suu Kyi said the only way for Myanmar to achieve a “true union” would be to try to satisfy the aspirations for autonomy of its ethnic nationalities.

On her 67th birthday on Tuesday, she made an emotional return to Oxford, a city heavy with the memories of her late husband, the academic Michael Aris who died of cancer in 1999.

Her former college St Hugh’s threw a birthday party and onlookers shouted “welcome back” as she arrived.

It was, however, unclear whether her two sons attended the private celebration.

Her Oxford-based younger son Kim, 35, was expected to attend, but it was not clear if her older son Alexander, 39, who reportedly lives in the United States, would be there.

Suu Kyi spent nearly two decades in Oxford, and brought up her sons there.

When she left for her homeland to care for her dying mother in 1988 she could not have imagined it would be nearly a quarter of a century before she would return.

As leader of the country’s democracy movement, she refused to leave Myanmar, fearing that the military leaders would prevent her from returning.

As a result, she only saw her husband and sons a handful of times in the intervening years. When her husband was dying he urged her to remain in Myanmar and pursue her struggle.

“I’ve said very often, in fact again and again ad nauseam, that I don’t look at what I have done as a sacrifice. It was a choice I made,” Suu Kyi told ITV television in an interview.

“It was a sacrifice for my husband and sons. Especially for my sons, because my husband after all was adult, but the children were young and it must have mattered to them not to have both parents near them.

“And I don’t feel good about it, but on the other hand I think that in the end, one decides what one’s priorities are and one lives with one’s decisions.”

On Tuesday, Suu Kyi also met Dave Lee Travis, the bearded radio DJ whose BBC World Service programmes she credits with giving her a lifeline during her detention.

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