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

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Media captionAung 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.

"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.

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Media captionAung 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.