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 280.

    "If Ms Suu Kyi had just been awarded the Peace Prize, I would have expected her to have made a polite speech and declined to accept the honor, on the grounds that it had been utterly debased by its being given to Obama, or whatever his real name is!"

    His real name is Obama.

    No need to thank me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    At last after long imprisonment other hardships its great to see her in London. We hope and wish that her mission comes reality and bring about change for better not only Burma but rest of the world. Welcome!! and Best Wishes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    The other rather silly aspect is how the UK govt by cutting the World Service loses the UK immense prestige, goodwill influence and business...But with comedian William Hague as Foreign Minister, he probably cares tuppence for doing the job of Foreign Minister properly...

    Like Boris Johnson, both are constant comedians and a sad reflection on our fine country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Her Nobel Prize is a great way to give publicity to someone to has sacrificed everything for what she believes in, including her own family life.
    That is an honourable thing, and it should be recognized. Giving publicity to people like Ms Suu Kyi may, if we are lucky give inspiration to our children who at the moment all want to be like the cast of "The Only way is Essex".
    This is a good thing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Oh, and happy birthday, ASSK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    @ 19.ProfPhoenix and 25.chiptheduck

    So when did you last spend time under house arrest for god knows how many years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    I cannot get my head around this falling about over this woman..yes she has been locked up for a long time..but what has she actually done at all..and a nobel prize..for what..poor Alfred would be turning in his doubt either Brent council or Hackney will be renaming a block of flats after her ..why do we keep doing this..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    A lot of people have turned this into a somewhat predictable anti-BBC rant, bias, the establishment, blah blah etc etc. The fact remains that Suu Kyi did actually pay tribute to the BBC World Service and the BBC is right to report this BECAUSE IT HAPPENED!. I imagine if you are incarcerated and want some reliable information on the outside world, the BBC might be a good place to start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    The comments by "In Gold we trust" are cynical and sadly I suggest their moral compass presumalby comes from their name and gold and money is all he trusts...

    Miss Su Kyi has sacrificed her family not becuase of her desires but because the Burmese Generals thought that as a woman she would put her family and life's luxuries ahead of her political views/ethics. Good on her for showing the truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    I got her out of house arrest a few years ago. They locked her up again after a month or so of freedom, and I couldn't achieve it a second time.

    Glad she's free and things seem to be moving forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    @Jack (217): "I see a couple of people have negatively rated my comment (202)"

    I agree with you that the monarchy is undemocratic and that the BBC often seems to take a biased pro-monarchy position, but this is obviously a minority viewpoint so a number of negative ratings here are hardly surprising. In any case, you can't compare with Burma in terms of undemocratic wielding of real power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Has anybody told her that the Tories are determined to wreck it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    195 - In Gold I trust
    I everyone thought like this there would be no opposition to unjust systems - no Nelson Mandela, no Martin Luther King etc - opposition to unjust systems involves sacrifice, sometimes of your own family, in order to improve things for the wider community. She is an example to us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Aung San Suu Kyi is a beacon of light amid a world of gloom and chaos. Another shining example like Mandella & Ghandi to inspire world leaders and politicans to do better

    She is a symbol of strength in adversity.

    (And I recommend everyone to see the movie The Lady also)

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Aung San Suu Kyi pays tribute to BBC.

    Yeah.... we all have to, it's called the licence fee?

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.


    As for so called "freedom of speech" I have witnessed it not as a policy that is promoted but rather a consequence of trying to build a veneer from behind which a tyranny can be hidden

    For who controls the questions doesn't have to fear the answers

    David Davis is a good example of this promoted as; "anti BigBro" but backed by NEO CONS

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    257.Sidney Monroe - "....Just imagine what it would be like if those who ran the BBC ran the country."

    A darn sight better than it would be if you were running it - after all you cannot even distinguish between reporting the news & endorsing what whoever has said about whatever.....reporting the news is just that....

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    @257 Just imagine what it would be like if those who ran the BBC ran the country.

    Don't they already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    7 Hours ago
    Inspiration, intelligence, dignity and compassion. A bright light in a confusing, chaotic, cynical and frightening world. Welcome to London!!

    ** I've never heard the Hairy Cornflake described like this before. Apparently he was in London today to meet a fan from Burma. God Bless DLT!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Shame our Media and Culture secretary does not share this view of the BBC. He seems to believe that BSkyB brought something to the UK other than US imports.
    Glad to see that truth and fairness that the BBC represents are appreciated!


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