OSLO, NORWAY (BNO NEWS) -- Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday traveled to the Norwegian capital of Oslo to accept the Nobel peace prize she was awarded more than two decades ago, saying it shattered her isolation while in house arrest and ensured her country's people would not be forgotten.
Suu Kyi, 66, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights in Myanmar, which is internationally also known as Burma. The Norwegian Nobel Committee at the time praised Suu Kyi as being "one of the most extraordinary examples" of civil courage in Asia in recent decades, which made her an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.
Suu Kyi spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest until her release in November 2010, days after the country's first elections in 20 years which paved the way for an end to 49 years of military rule. The country has undergone a rapid number of political changes in the past year, including the loosening of press laws, legalizing the right to demonstrate and organize as workers, the release of leading political prisoners, and ethnic cease-fire agreements.
The famed politician is currently on her first visit to Europe in more than 24 years, and she arrived in Oslo on Saturday to finally accept her peace prize and deliver her Nobel Lecture at the Oslo City Hall. The Nobel Lectures are usually given two months after the prizes are awarded, but Suu Kyi had previously been prevented from leaving Myanmar.
During her speech on Saturday, Suu Kyi said she heard the news she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the radio one evening. "It did not altogether come as a surprise because I had been mentioned as one of the front-runners for the prize in a number of broadcasts during the previous week," she said. "It did not seem quite real because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time."
Suu Kyi said that, during her house arrest, she often felt as if she was no longer a part of the real world. "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."
She added: "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. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize. It had made me real once again; it had drawn me back into the wider human community. 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."
Suu Kyi looked well during Saturday's speech after falling ill during a press conference alongside Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter in the Swiss capital of Bern on late Thursday. She explained she did not feel well before throwing up in a bag, after which she walked out of the room. Her spokesman said the illness was the result of exhaustion, caused by her traveling and a day filled with public events.
Earlier this year, Suu Kyi was elected to parliament as the National League for Democracy, the political party she created, won dozens of seats in by-elections. It was the first election which Suu Kyi was allowed to run in since the beginning of her house arrest.
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