Aung San Suu Kyi pays tribute to BBC on tour of UK


Aung San Suu Kyi met former BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Dave Lee Travis (centre) and composer Jonathan Dove (left)

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has thanked the BBC World Service for keeping her "in touch", during her years of house arrest in Burma.

On the first day of a UK tour, she met the BBC's director general and staff at the BBC Burmese Service in London.

Earlier she stressed the "importance of the rule of law" in democracy, at a London School of Economics debate.

Later she went to Oxford - her home in the early 1980s - for a party to celebrate her 67th birthday.

The pro-democracy leader was freed from more than two decades of house arrest in late 2010.


On her visit to BBC Broadcasting House in central London, she paid tribute to BBC staff.

"Because of the BBC I never lost touch with my people, with the movement for democracy in Burma and with the rest of the world," she said.

But Ms Suu Kyi also said she was "a little sad" about changes to programming on the World Service.

"I feel that the BBC World Service is not as versatile as it used to be - or perhaps I'm not listening at the right times," she said.

At the scene

It was a real honour to receive Aung San Suu Kyi at the World Service.

What was really striking was that she was genuinely pleased to see us here.

She spoke about how she listened to the World Service during her years of detention.

It was her link to the outside world, it kept her informed and she relied on the knowledge it provided.

She even had some suggestions about programming.

She told us that this visit to the World Service felt like coming back to a family.

For everyone in the Burmese service this was an unforgettable experience.

"There used to be so many different programmes, and every time I listen to it now, it's news and commentaries. I miss the other old programmes... Bookshelf, Just a Minute, and so many others which I don't seem to hear now...

"It's not what it used to be."

Ms Suu Kyi also met former Radio 1 disc jockey Dave Lee Travis, whose BBC World Service show she listened to while detained.

During a brief conversation, Ms Suu Kyi recalled how she was "thrilled" to hear a young Burmese boy speaking on his programme for the first time.

"Well that's the World Service," Mr Lee Travis replied.

"It does what it says on the tin, and I am just glad to have been a part of the things that you listened to that helped you."

Afterwards, Mr Lee Travis added: "It is so delightful to shake the hand of a person that is doing such a lot for freedom."

Ms Suu Kyi was also introduced to composer Jonathan Dove, who is writing a musical tribute to her, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 later this year.

"When I was under house arrest I thought that what I wanted to be most of all was a composer," she told him. "Because I thought then I could compose music and this could reach out to people all over the world regardless of what language they knew or didn't know."

Taking part in a round-table debate at LSE on Tuesday morning, Ms Suu Kyi said reform and democracy were only possible when "justice was done and seen to be done".

Asked why she did not condemn the military junta in Burma, she explained that "resolving conflict is not about condemnation", but about discovering and solving the roots of conflict.

She also said she had been "touched by the warmth" that people had welcomed her with during the visit.

Her two-week-long tour - her first to Europe since 1988 - is seen as another milestone for Burma's political progress and includes visits to the UK, Switzerland, France and Norway.

Her decision to travel has been seen as a sign of confidence in the government of President Thein Sein, who has pursued a course of reform since coming to power last year, in Burma's first elections in 20 years.

Royal meeting

On Wednesday, the opposition leader will address Oxford University where she is expected to receive an honorary degree.

She lived in the city for a number of years with her British husband, Michael Aris, and their two children before returning to Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi: "I never knew how much people cared for us"

Ahead of a meeting with Ms Suu Kyi on Thursday, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Commons it was "vital for all of us who believe in freedom and democracy" to work with her.

He added: "It is important to recognise that there is still a long way to go in Burma.

"I do believe that the president of Burma is sincere in his intentions, but there will be a variety of views about the democratic progress of Burma within the regime."

Ms Suu Kyi will also meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on Thursday, as well as addressing both Houses of Parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burmese independence leader Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947.

She became the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement when, after living abroad for many years, she returned to Burma in 1988, initially to look after her sick mother.

She never left the country, fearing its military rulers would not allow her to return and was unable to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in person, or be with her husband when he died in 1999.


More on This Story

Burma's Transition


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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The BBC missed a trick here! In her Nobel Speech on Saturday, she said that she listened to Desert Island Discs & loved it. Why hasn't the Beeb recorded an extra special edition. I am sure she would be a willing volunteer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "I see the BBC is still using the colonial term Burma and not the UN recognised name of Myanmar.

    Just can't let the past go can you?"

    We also call the nation its people call "Deutschland" the old Roman imperial name "Germany".

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    32. Some Lingering Fog
    I see the BBC is still using the colonial term Burma and not the UN recognised name of Myanmar.

    Just can't let the past go can you?
    I think you'll find that both names are equally acceptable, plus everyone in the UK refers to the country as Burma.

    You just can't stop getting hung up about it, can you ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    "I see the BBC is still using the colonial term Burma and not the UN recognised name of Myanmar.

    Just can't let the past go can you?"

    If you had bothered to do any reading you would have found out that Ms Suu Kyi also refer to the country as Burma when speaking English. She did so during the speech she gave accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    It is sobering to think of the sacrifices which people like Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters are prepared to make for freedom, while we in the UK have taken our freedom so much for granted that we are no longer vigilant in its protection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's courage, dignity and humility are an example to us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I would suggest that all of our politicians bow their heads in salute to a politician so worthy of the name. Our own self interested lot pale in to insignificance in her presence

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It's funny how a pro democracy leader should choose to come here, as we become more of a Police/Government run state every minute that passes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I see the BBC is still using the colonial term Burma and not the UN recognised name of Myanmar.

    Just can't let the past go can you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    It is fantastic to see Aung San Su Kyi here in UK. A truly courageous and inspirational politician, she deserves our admiration for standing up for human rights and freedom in the face of shocking persecution from the power crazed military of her beloved coiuntry Burma. Definitely not Myanmar the generals' failed rebranding of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Ms Suu Kyi reminds me of the Dalai Lama. Both of these upstanding people shoiuld be carefully listened to

    Perhaps Burma, by climbing out of isolation, can now turn its back on regime China, but unfortunately Tibet cannot do the same.

    Still conquered and occupied Tibet weeps under the CP yoke, whilst Burma struggles back to humanity

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Welcome back to the UK Aung San Suu Kyi. You are a great example of self-sacrifice in the name of your people.

    Whilst you are here, could you teach our so-called leaders about democracy?

    We would like a Referendum on the EU but our useless leaders do not want us to have democracy on this subject, instead preferring to lead us all up a blind alley to destruction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Was lucky enough to hear her speaking via a live telephone link last year at the Reith Lectures at the bbc. Was moved and humbled by her dignity and resilience in the face of her own personal hardship and that of her people. Know few current world leaders of such dignity. Very proud she is visiting the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    "Why do these politicians with their Nobel prizes stay at home and do something useful in their own country instead of swanning around the world for photo ops with famous people."

    Are you not aware that she spent a good number of years living in the UK, married a Brit and has two sons who were born and raised in the UK and are British nationals ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The Nobel Prize drew Ms Suu Kyi out of isolation & back into humanity.

    These regime house arrests particularly of human rights activists are intended to rob the individual of all dignity & to make them feel utterly alone & uncared for. It was the same with blind Mr Chen in China. The brutal CP regime were out to destroy his spirit

    The artist Wei wei, still suffers the same illegal punishment

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I would have thought that MPs and the House of Lords had quite enough domestic problems to sort out without wasting time listening to speeches from this woman.

    Start earning your money guys!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I'm gald she is visiting. She should be a role model for our politicians. She has courage, grace, intelligence and is unstoppable in the most disarming of ways.
    We should put out the red caprpet and heed her words - the problem in Burma (not Myanmar) is far from over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So she gets to me Prince Charles, I hope she gets a lesson in democracy from the man born to be king !

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I admire this lady, soooooo much!
    She and Nelson Mandela, for example, are the REAL heroes of this world.
    Don't give me the MARTYRS but give me these indestructible HONEST people. I sincerely hope conditions in Burma/Myanmar improve markedly as a result of her UNTIRING effort towards this goal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Her indefatigable sense of purpose has forced the generals to soften their hard-line stance and grant more basic freedoms to Burmese citizens. Completely selfless, she has made the military realize the futility of placing her under house arrest. She has disarmed the military leaders and they know the international repercussions if they move against her. The moral voice she has is so very potent.


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