Myanmar's democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, has given her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, 21 years after being awarded the prize, as violence continues in Myanmar.
It came 21 years late, but Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland was finally able to welcome Aung San Suu Kyi to personally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991. Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Myanmar - also known as Burma - when the prize was originally awarded to her.
In her acceptance speech, Suu Kyi spoke of her isolation and said the Nobel Peace Prize had "made me real once again … it had drawn attention to the struggle for democracy in Burma."
She commented on the violence in Myanmar's northeast Rakhine state and also about ongoing struggles throughout the world. She said all should rebel against tyranny and pressure. "Human rights should be protected by the rule of law. If I am asked why I am fighting for democracy in Burma, it is because I believe democracy is necessary for the preservation of human rights."
On her country's new political reforms, she said: "If I show cautious optimism, it is not because I doubt the process, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith."
The Nobel laureate called on the government to release the rest of the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience before "the rest are forgotten."
She called on the international community to help exert pressure on the government: "one prisoner of conscience is one too many. Those who have not been freed in my country number more than one."
"Each and every one of us is capable of making a contribution."
Period of isolation
International attention turned toward Myanmar and its rampant state oppression when Suu Kyi was awarded the prize in 1991 for her peaceful fight for democracy. At the time of that ceremony, Mynamar's ruling junta had granted her permission to travel to Olso, but she refused to go, fearing she would not be let back into the country.
She was imprisoned shortly before winning in polls in 1990 in a landslide victory for her National League of Democracy (NLD) party. She spent the better half of the following two decades in prison or under house arrest.
In 2010, Suu Kyi was released from house arrest by the newly-elected government under President Thein Sein and on April 1, 2012, she was voted into parliament in a by-election - the first democratic poll to take place since the election of Thein Sein.
While Myanmar has been going through a democratic and economic transition since the election of its government - with Western countries lifting sanctions and seeking investment there in response to the positive reform - grave problems persist in the ethnically diverse country.
A report released by Mynamar state media placed the number of casualties of the latest violence in the western Rakhine state at around 50. Though unrest has largely been quelled by now, the report was released on Saturday and referred to rioting and clashes between local Buddhists and ethnic minority Muslim Rohingya between May 28 and June 4.
Rights groups and other local sources believe the figure to be much higher.
The area continues to face a humanitarian crisis due to the number of people displaced by the violence. On a visit to the region, a United Nations team witnessed the devastation, saying that around 10,000 displaced people were sheltering in provincial capital Sittwe alone. The UN has spoken of "immense hardship."
Thein Sein has warned the violence could disrupt the nation's fragile democratic reforms as it emerges from decades of army rule. It also poses a dilemma for Suu Kyi currently on her historic trip to Europe.
Pledging help for the affected area, UN special adviser Vijay Nambiar praised the government for its "prompt, firm and sensitive" response to the clashes but urged a "full, impartial and credible" probe into the unrest.
There are an estimated 800,000 Rohingya who currently live in Myanmar, according to UN figures, and most of them live in Rakhine state. The ethnic group has suffered under decades of discrimination, with the UN naming them among the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
The government in Myanmar has considered the Rohingya to be foreigners; many in Myanmar see them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has received criticism for considering closing its border to asylum-seeking Rohingya.
sb/mz (Reuters, AFP)