U.S. lawmakers plan to honor Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi by presenting her with the Congressional Gold Medal in September during the opposition leader’s first trip to the U.S. in more than 20 years.
The 67-year-old Nobel laureate has not traveled to the U.S. since being placed under house arrest in 1990, when the then-ruling military junta refused to acknowledge her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s victory in Burma’s national elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her confinement for most of the last two decades in November 2010 after historic elections that ushered a new nominally civilian government into power in March last year.
Since then, the opposition leader was permitted to run for a seat in parliament, which she won handily, as part of a number of democratic reforms enacted by Burmese president Thein Sein, and all travel restrictions against her have been lifted.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award bestowed by the U.S. Congress and is often accompanied by a presentation ceremony involving the president and senior lawmakers. Congress voted to give Aung San Suu Kyi the medal in May 2008, but she was unable to claim it.
The last political dissident honored by Congress with the medal was Tibetan spiritual leader-in-exile the Dalai Lama, who was presented the award by then U.S. President George W. Bush in October 2007 over furious objections from China.
Agence France Presse reported Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi would be traveling to Washington to receive the medal in September, citing congressional aides.
First trip abroad
The opposition leader’s first trip abroad since her release from house arrest came in May this year when she traveled to Thailand and met with Burmese migrant workers there.
She recently returned from a trip through much of Europe where she received the Nobel Peace Prize, also awarded to her while under house arrest, in Oslo, Norway and visited her alma mater, Oxford University, in England.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Aung San Suu Kyi to Washington during a trip to Burma in December.
During her U.S. trip, Aung San Suu Kyi will also visit New York to accept an award from the Atlantic Council think-tank. That ceremony will coincide with United Nations General Assembly, which brings scores of world leaders to New York annually.
Aung San Suu Kyi lived in New York and worked at the U.N. secretariat from 1969 to 1971.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.