Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally delivered on Saturday her Nobel Peace Prize speech, saying the award she won 21 years ago while under house arrest "opened up a door in my heart" and fueled her campaign for democracy and human rights.
"When the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to me they were recognizing that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognizing the oneness of humanity," the 66-year-old democracy icon said in her acceptance speech.
"So for me receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart," she said, appearing emotional at times in her 40-minute address.
She received two standing ovations during her speech to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in front of Norway's King Harald, Queen Sonja and hundreds of dignitaries at the Oslo City Hall.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in November 2010, did not accept the award personally in 1991 as she feared the military generals who were ruling the country ruthlessly at that time would not allow her to return to Burma.
Her husband Michael Aris, who died of cancer in 1999, and their two sons accepted the award on her behalf.
"Often during my days of house arrest, it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world," said Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent 15 years of the last two decades under house arrest.
"There was the house which was my world. There was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community. And there was the world of the free. Each one was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe."
"What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings, outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. ... And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten," she said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, on her first visit to Europe in nearly a quarter of a century, said she was cautiously optimistic about reforms continuing in her country under the nominally civilian government that took over in March last year after decades of harsh military rule.
"If I advocate cautious optimism, it is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith. Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years," she said.
Ethnic tensions and political freedom in Burma remain among her concerns, she said.
When Aung San Suu Kyi left Rangoon for Europe earlier this week, the country's western state of Rakhine was reeling from sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims.
The death toll from two weeks of violence stands at 50, with 58 injured and more than 2,500 houses burned down, according to state media.
More than 200 people remained missing from the Muslim town of Maungdaw, where the unrest first started eight days ago, said an official recording casualties for the government, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, Reuters reported.
Aung San Suu Kyi will be honored on Monday at a concert staged in Dublin, Ireland, where U2 lead singer Bono will present her with the Ambassador of Conscience award, Amnesty International's most prestigious honour.
She arrives in Britain on Tuesday, her 67th birthday. She is expected to enjoy a family gathering, possibly meeting her two grandchildren she has never seen, and receive an honorary doctorate at Oxford, where she studied, reports have said.
She is also scheduled to address both houses of parliament in Westminster Hall, a rare honor usually accorded only to heads of state.
Her last stop is France, at the personal invitation of the new president Francois Hollande.
Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA's Burmese service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.