Mentally disabled have right to participate: Suu Kyi

Myanmar opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi drew on her experience of decades under house arrest to appeal Wednesday against the social isolation of the mentally disabled.

In a keynote speech at a conference on the sidelines of the 2012 Special Winter Olympics in the South Korean ski resort of Pyeongchang, Suu Kyi said she knew "too well how it feels to be isolated" and removed from society.

"Importantly, I had hope that one day things would change for the better... but too many people with intellectual disabilities are denied even such hope," the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner said.

Suu Kyi spent the best part of two decades under house arrest prior to her release in 2010. She was elected to the Myanmar parliament last year.

The Pyeongchang conference was focused on the theme of ending the cycle of poverty and exclusion in which many with mental disabilities find themselves locked.

In her address, Suu Kyi stressed the importance of allowing disabled people to "participate in decision-making and to be active in their communities", adding that participation was key to "enjoying all human rights".

"I have never thought I had to make sacrifices. I always thought I made made my choices," she said.

"And this is what many intellectually disabled people are denied. They are denied the rights to make their own choices... More choices must be open to them."

Speaking later to reporters, Suu Kyi said she had been inspired and "humbled" by the resilience and commitment of the roughly 2,300 mentally disabled athletes participating in the Special Winter Olympics.

The pro-democracy icon arrived in Seoul on Monday for a four-day visit.

On Thursday, she will visit the southwestern city of Gwangju to receive a human rights award that commemorates a pro-democracy uprising against military dictatorship in the city in 1980.

Suu Kyi was awarded the prize back in 2004 but was unable to receive it as she was under house arrest at the time.

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