Saturday, 16 June 2012

Thousands cheer Aung San Suu Kyi in Oslo

It took her 21 years, but today Aung San Suu Kyi received one of the longest standing ovations I have heard as she finally was able to give her Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo’s City Hall. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 14 October 1991, while held under house arrest by the Burmese military junta, and it was therefore her sons Kim and Alexander who received the Peace Prize on her behalf in the City Hall on 10 December 1991.
In the following years she was unable to leave Burma, as she was quite certain that once out of the country, the junta would not allow her back in. But she has always said that once it was possible to leave Burma without fear of being denied re-entry, her first foreign journey would take her to Norway to hold the Nobel Peace Prize lecture she was unable to deliver in 1991.
And yesterday afternoon, having attended an ILO meeting in Geneva on her way, Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Oslo, where she has a crowded schedule. Yesterday she met the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, and held a joint press conference with him, before attending a banquet at Akershus Castle in the evening.
Today she was received in audience by the King and Queen and the Crown Prince, followed by the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in the City Hall at 1 p.m. You may read her acceptance speech in its entirety at the Nobel Prize website (external link).
Later in the day Aung San Suu Kyi visited the Nobel Peace Centre and thereafter attended the public celebrations in the City Hall Square, which saw some 12,000 people - and eventually also the sun - turn out to cheer her. Here there were speeches by, among others, former Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland (sixth photo), now Chairman of the Nobel Committee, former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik (seventh photo), who has earlier visited Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Harald Bøckmann (eighth photo), leader of the Norwegian Burma Committee, and John Peder Egenæs (ninth photo), Secretary General of Amnesty, who also called for China to release the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. There were also musical performances by, among others, Bigbang (tenth photo) and Guro von Germeten and the Schwindelfrei Orchestra (eleventh photo).
However, the loudest applause was obviously for Aung San Suu Kyi, who lit the peace flame together with two children, and gave a warm speech thanking the Norwegian people for their support for democracy, human rights and refugees in general and the Burmese people in particular.
Tonight there is a banquet at Grand Hotel, where Suu Kyi is staying, and tomorrow Suu Kyi will make a day trip to Bergen to formally accept the Rafto Prize, which she was awarded in 1990, but was also unable to collect in person. On Monday she will visit Parliament before continuing to Ireland. Her European tour will also take in Britain, where she will be accorded the fairly rare honour of addressing a joint session of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday, and finally France before she will return to Burma.

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