Burmese democracy advocate makes SF appearance


This was Suu Kyi's first visit to the United States in almost 40 years. This is the last leg of her 18 day trip. She spoke like an experienced political leader and at times joked about things such as her house arrest which she said was not bad at all. She had short wave radio, a piano, and many books and said, "What more could I ask for?" But it was clear she came to the Bay Area to gather support for her country.

Suu Kyi received a hero's welcome at San Francisco's Asia Foundation. She has come to symbolize the struggle of the Burmese people to be free. Suu Kyi herself was allowed to leave her home only two years ago.

"So it is now up to all of us who remain to make sure that the transition comes as peacefully and as quickly as desirable," Suu Kyi said. During her visit to the Bay Area, she met with political leaders and entrepreneurs who have expressed their willingness to help support her country. She cautioned true progress in Burma must include all people, "It's not enough to help a country which is emerging from dictatorship into democracy. It has to be helped in such a way that the foundation of a democratic society will be strengthened. This of course means empowering the people."

Suu Kyi spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest. But during her confinement the world continued to acknowledge her efforts to bring democracy to Burma, also known as Myanmar. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Recently, on September 19, she was presented the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the U.S. Under the leadership of the current president Thein Sein, the country is slowly seeing political and social reform.

John Brandon is a member of the Burma task force for the Asia Foundation, "He was looking at what other parts of South East Asia and other parts of Asia were doing and how they were progressing and the economic development and felt that his people were falling behind and this was something that was not sustainable."

"Please help us but in the right way," Suu Kyi said. "Please help us but thoughtfully. Please help us but with the proper sequencing, as well as with the right speed."

When asked what she expects from the Silicon Valley, she said technology will have to play a major role in the democratic process of Burma. Hardly anyone there has access to the internet. On Saturday Suu Kyi will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco and will also meet with members of the Burmese community of the Bay Area.

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