Activists Laud Congress for Awarding Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi Rare Honor (click to view PDF)

For First Time In History, Congress Grants Congressional Gold Medal to Recipient Who Is Under Arrest

U.S. Campaign for Burma Press Release
April 24th, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC) The US Campaign for Burma today welcomed a unanimous vote in the United States Senate that granted the Congress’ highest civilian honor to the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The measure passed at approximately 6:20 PM today.

It is believed that in the 232-year history of the award (the first recipient was George Washington), Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person to have ever been given the prize while imprisoned.

Thousands of USCB members urged their US Senators to grant the award, which already passed the US House of Representatives by a vote of 400-0.

Locked up under house arrest in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, Suu Kyi is the leader of
Burma’s struggle to end decades of military rule in the country. Suu Kyi has often been compared to Nelson Mandela.

Said Aung Din, co-founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, “The Burmese military generals have tried to isolate Aung San Suu Kyi from her own people and from the international community by keeping her under house arrest for over 12 years. However, the Generals, who control over 400,000 soldiers, are losing a battle with a single, unarmed woman. Her only tools are courage and loving kindness, yet she has captured the hearts of the people of Burma and the respect of the world.”

Some of the world’s most prominent leaders in government, human rights, and the arts have won the Congressional Gold Medal, including Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel. The resolution says Aung San Suu Kyi “remains committed to peaceful dialogue with her captors, the Burmese military junta, despite an assassination attempt against her life, her prolonged illegal imprisonment, the constant public vilification of her character, and her inability to see her children or to see her husband before his 
death.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the struggle for human rights and democracy in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. Not just a human rights advocate, she is the legitimate leader of the Burmese people, leading her political party the National League for Democracy to a victory in the country’s last democratic election. She has been locked up under house arrest (and at times in prison) for 12 of the past 18 years by Burma‘s ruling military regime.

The regime is among the world’s most brutal, imprisoning up to 2,000 political prisoners, conscripting more child soldiers than any other country in the world, and using rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities. The regime has been condemned by the UN General Assembly and in October the UN Security Council issued its first ever statement calling for changes in Burma.

International diplomats expect more action on Burma at the Security Council in the coming days, as the European Union plans to call for a global arms embargo on Burma next week. The United States has already said it supports such an embargo.

Aung San Suu Kyi has survived two assassination attempts orchestrated by the military regime while thousands of her colleagues have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

Her international admirers include Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams and Elie Wiesel, as well as entertainers Jim Carrey, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, and Eric Szmanda.

“In a world in which public heroes are few and far between, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the greatest people of our time,” added Aung Din. “She richly deserves this award and the Burmese people are so proud that one of our own has been honored in this way.”

Like Mandela, who was mostly ignored for the first two decades of his imprisonment, Suu Kyi is still unknown to much of the world. The US Campaign for Burma is working to introduce efforts into global consciousness.

The US Campaign for Burma campaigned to support the effort to award Daw Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal. U.S. Congressmen Joseph Crowley spearheaded the overall effort and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell led the effort in the US Senate.

In addition to her continued imprisonment, she hasn’t seen her personal doctor for a medical checkup since January 24, 2008.

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