Wed 20 Jun 2012
Filed under: International
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said her memories of her time in Oxford had helped her while she was under house arrest.She was speaking as she accepted an honorary civil law doctorate from Oxford University.
Ms Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest in Burma for more than two decades, received the advanced degree – 19 years after she was awarded it.
Memories like “reading on the lawn” while a student had sustained her.
At the ceremony she in turn was praised for her “endurance” while under house arrest.
In her speech the pro-democracy leader said: “During the most difficult years, I was upheld by memories of Oxford.
“Those were among the most important inner resources that helped me to cope with all the challenges I had to face.”
She said the memories were simple ones like “summer days like these, reading on the lawn at St Hugh’s” and “being in the library not looking at a book but out of the window”.
She continued: “It helped me to understand the people of Burma, who wanted to live a happy life and had never been given the opportunity to live one.”
Ms Suu Kyi said young people in Burma were not able to have a similar college experience because their university life had been “shattered”.
She received a two-minute standing ovation at the end of her minute speech.
Presenting the award, Oxford’s Public Orator, Professor Richard Jenkyns of Lady Margaret Hall, said Ms Suu Kyi was returning to “a city full of memories” for her.
“For many years you bore the burden of isolation, displaying patience and endurance to a degree not easily imagined.
“We hail you with joy as you appear in Oxford once more: as for yourself, we do not know what mixture of emotions you feel, and it would be impertinent to intrude on them.”
BBC’s world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge said this was a “high point” of Ms Suu Kyi’s four-day visit to the UK.
The Nobel Laureate read philosophy, politics and economics at St Hugh’s College Oxford in the 1960s.
She worked in New York and Bhutan before settling back in Oxford in the 1980s with her husband Tibetan scholar Michael Aris, and their sons Alexander and Kim.
She became the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement when she returned to Burma in 1988, initially to look after her sick mother.
The 67-year-old was placed under house arrest by the military and not released until November 2010.
Her two-week-long tour to Europe – her first since 1988 – includes visits to the UK, Switzerland, France and Norway.
In Norway, she was presented with her Nobel Peace Prize, 21 years after it was awarded to her in 1991.
On Tuesday she met fellow Nobel Laureate the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who had joined campaigns for her release.