Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets Prince Charles
LONDON: Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met British heir to the throne Prince Charles on Thursday ahead of her historic address to both houses of parliament.
Her royal encounter on the third day of her first trip to Britain in 24 years came as the British government confirmed it had invited Myanmar’s reformist president Thein Sein to visit London.
“He is due to visit the UK in the coming months to continue the discussions they began when the Prime Minister was in Burma in April,” said a spokesman for Cameron.
Downing Street said Suu Kyi was “aware of the invitation.”
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, who is visiting Britain for a week as part of a sweep through Europe, met Charles and his wife Camilla at their Clarence House residence in London.
Charles knew Suu Kyi’s late English husband Michael Aris, and became patron of the Tibet expert’s Memorial Trust for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies after Aris died in 1999. She earlier met British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where she received loud applause.
Suu Kyi, a recently-elected lawmaker herself following her release from house arrest in 2010, was to address British lawmakers later in the 11th-century Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the parliament complex.
She is only the fifth foreign dignitary since World War II to address both houses of parliament in the cavernous hall, following in the footsteps of US President Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, Nelson Mandela and Charles de Gaulle.
The Myanmar opposition leader will also meet with Cameron.
The pair previously met in Myanmar in April when Cameron announced moves to lift sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation in recognition of its moves towards democracy. On Tuesday, Suu Kyi made an emotional return to Oxford, the southern English city where she studied and brought up the family she would later leave behind.
The 67-year-old said she was deeply moved on Wednesday as she was honoured by Oxford University, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics in the mid-1960s.
“Today has been very moving,” Suu Kyi said in a speech after she was presented with an honorary doctorate in civil law in the grand surroundings of Oxford’s 17th century Sheldonian Theatre.
“During those difficult years I spent under house arrest I was upheld by my memories of Oxford. They helped me cope with the challenges I had to face,” she said.
After her speech she received a standing ovation from an audience of more than 1,000 dons and students from the university. She was awarded the doctorate in 1993 but, like the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991, she was unable to pick it up at the time, fearing that if she left Myanmar she would not be allowed to return.
Suu Kyi spent nearly two decades in Oxford, and brought up her sons Alexander and Kim there with Aris. 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.
She only saw her husband and two 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. She was released from house arrest in November 2010 and is now a member of parliament.
“The road ahead is not going to be easy, but Oxford, I know, expects the best of its own,” she said in her speech.
Suu Kyi will head to France on June 26 for the last leg of her European tour, following a rockstar welcome from cheering crowds in Ireland, Norway and Switzerland. On Saturday, she finally delivered her Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, 21 years after winning the award while under house arrest.
Her visit to Britain has been clouded by continued communal violence in western Myanmar where dozens of people have been killed and an estimated 90,000 people have fled their homes.