Myanmar's Suu Kyi in historic speech to British parliament

Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday urged the world to help Myanmar complete its journey towards democracy as she became the first foreign woman to address both houses of Britain's parliament.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate said her Southeast Asian homeland had yearned for democracy for decades, and could not afford to waste its chance to build a "truly democratic and just society" after 47 years of military rule.

"I am here, in part, to ask for practical help: help as a friend and an equal," Suu Kyi told around 2,000 lawmakers and guests, who gave her a standing ovation that echoed around parliament's cavernous Westminster Hall.

The Myanmar opposition leader, who was wearing a purple longyi skirt and a white shawl, said it was an "extraordinary honour" to address the 11th-century building, an invitation previously only offered to heads of state.

Since World War II, US President Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, South African president Nelson Mandela and French president Charles de Gaulle are the only other foreigners to have addressed both houses in Westminster Hall.

"We have an opportunity to re-establish true democracy in Burma," said Suu Kyi, using the former official name of Myanmar.

"If we do not use this opportunity -- if we do not get things right this time around -- it may be several decades more before a similar opportunity arises," she warned.

The 67-year-old added: "Our own determination can get us so far; the support of the people of Britain and the peoples around the world can get us so much further."

She urged Britain, Myanmar's former colonial power, to help her country develop its institutions, warning that the parliament she recently joined would "take time to find its feet".

She also encouraged "democracy-friendly investment" in her impoverished homeland, two days after Myanmar President Thein Sein pledged to follow dramatic political changes with economic reforms.

Investment that prioritises "transparency, accountability, workers' rights and environmental stability" would be welcome in resource-rich Myanmar, she said.

But she warned that Myanmar's development was continuing to suffer at the hands of the violence that has gripped parts of the country since independence in 1948, and urged aid for the tens of thousands displaced in recent months.

"In the immediate term we also need humanitarian support for the many people in the north and west -- largely women and children -- who have been forced to flee their homes," she said.

Suu Kyi was freed from nearly two decades of house arrest in November 2010 and became a lawmaker earlier this year as part of a gradual transition towards democracy in Myanmar.

The speech was the climax of Suu Kyi's visit to Britain, where she studied and lived for several years until she answered the call of duty in Myanmar, leaving her children and her English husband behind.

She earlier held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at his 10 Downing Street office, and with heir to the throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla at their Clarence House residence, where she planted a tree in the garden.

Cameron defended his decision to invite Thein Sein to Britain for talks, given that he was, until last year, a member of the junta that held Myanmar in its thrall for more than two decades.

"There is a process of reform in Burma. In order for that to succeed we have to work with the regime," he told a press conference with Suu Kyi.

Cameron in April became the first Western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, during which he met both Suu Kyi and Thein Sein.

Suu Kyi backed the decision to invite the president, saying: "We don't want to be shackled by the past. We want to use the past to build up the future."

On Tuesday, she made an emotional return to Oxford, the southern English city where she studied, met her late husband Michael Aris and brought up their two sons.

She said she was deeply moved on Wednesday as she received an honorary doctorate in civil law. The award was conferred in 1993 but she was unable to collect it at the time, fearing that if she left Myanmar the junta would not have allowed her to return.

Suu Kyi heads to France on June 26 for the last leg of her European tour, following warm welcomes in Switzerland, Ireland and Norway -- where she finally delivered her Nobel Peace Prize speech, 21 years after winning the award.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing
    EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing

    BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has given Thailand six months to drastically crack down on illegal and unregulated fishing or face an EU seafood import ban, but has lifted the threat of similar action against South Korea and the Philippines. …

  • Philippines accuses China of turning water cannon on its fishing boats

    Filipino activists denounced China's coast guard on Tuesday for turning water cannon on Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters, near where hundreds of Filipino and American Marines landed on a beach in a mock assault. The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. …

  • Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines
    Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicle with Philippine and U.S. troops on board storms the beach during a joint exercise at the Naval Education and Training Command center in Zambales province, northwest of Manila. The Zambales shore faces the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese vessels were reported to have driven away Filipino fishermen with a water cannon and seized some of their catch in early April. Philippine military officials say the maneuvers with …

  • Pinoy team wins global disaster preparedness competition

    The Philippines was one of the big winners at the 2015 Global Innovation Competition last week for a cloud-based information system for disaster. The project, called "Balangay," is the brainchild of cousins Frei Sangil and Paolo Sangil. …

  • How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map
    How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map

    Bitcoin is a global phenomenon, but not everyone around the world uses it in the same way. Here in Asia, the way a person from the Philippines uses bitcoin is probably very different from how it’s used in Thailand, and both are very different from the typical user in Taiwan. Despite bitcoin being hailed as …

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media
    Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media

    The Philippines is nothing more than the "cute little submissive" of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticising Manila for military exercises with Washington. The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes. "Of all the countries …

  • Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China
    Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China

    The Philippines said Tuesday it would soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defences, as it faces Chinese "aggressiveness" in disputed waters. As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, military chief General Gregorio Catapang told AFP he was drafting a "wish list" for US aid. Catapang said the Philippines would ask for "equipment and training", when Foreign …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options