After accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi touched down in Dublin on Monday to attend a concert organized by Amnesty International and accept the organization’s most prestigious honor, the Ambassador of Conscience award.
Suu Kyi took to the stage at Electric Burma, facing thousands of spectators, supporters and activists as U2 frontman Bono presented her with the honor, awarded to her in 2009. She also finally signed the Roll of Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin awarded to her 12 years ago.
“This trip is very important for Amnesty International,” Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, told ABC. “It’s a big celebration, but it’s also a reminder of the cruel fact that are so many prisoners of conscience and political prisoners still behind bars.”
Shetty called Suu Kyi a “symbol of hope” in a world full of “grim realities.” He said that the Electric Burma concert was proof that the work of Suu Kyi and Amnesty bears fruit and inspires human rights work worldwide.
The head of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, also underlined the importance of hope and inspiration.
“It’s a celebration and it needs to be a lot of fun, but I think it’s more about inspiration,” said O’Gorman. “It’s a moment we have to use to refocus our efforts, to make sure we continue to champion human rights, democracy and freedom in Myanmar or Burma, or anywhere else in the world where they’re under threat.”
The latest Amnesty International briefing on Burma, based on a mission to the county last month, outlined the persistence of two main issues – the continued detention of political prisoners and the treatment of ethnic minorities. Conflict between the Burmese army and various ethnic groups, such as the Kachin, Karen and Shan, has been taking place for years.
Suu Kyi first began championing human rights in her home country in 1988, after brutal military crackdowns on peaceful protests demanding the establishment of civilian elected government. She was under house arrest until late 2010, for 15 out of the last 24 years. This April Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy won 43 of 44 parliamentary seats.
“I am very excited, I never imagined I would see her in Dublin, you know?” said Eung Sen Phyo, a Burmese native who left the country almost 25 years ago, and who’s 12-year-old daughter presented Suu Kyi with a bouquet of flowers at Dublin airport.
“I would love to go and see the change happening in my country,” he added. “Hopefully this is just the beginning.”
Hundreds of so-called prisoners of conscience remain in Burma, defined by Amnesty as people imprisoned because of their political, religious or other beliefs, usually in the absence of any kind of legal protocol.
In her Nobel address, Suu Kyi had said that “one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” and her message that, despite recent developments, a lot of work in Burma remains to be done, was the theme of her address to Dublin crowds: “Troubles are not yet all over, and I’m confident that you will continue to stand with us.”