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Mahatma Gandhi Peace award for Aung San Suu Kyi

By M Subramoney in Durban
July 21, 2009 10:03 IST
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Pro-democracy Myanmar leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been felicitated with Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation.

The award was bestowed by the South Africa-based Mahatma Gandhi Foundation at a function at the Durban City Hall on Monday night.

Burmese Prime Minister-in-exile, Thien Win received the award on her behalf, which was presented by South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim.

Bestowing the award, Paddy Kearney, a trustee of the Foundation, said the award was being given on July 20 because it represents the 20th anniversary of Suu Kyi's house arrest by the military junta in her country.

"She is a non-violent leader in the mould of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. The award is in recognition of her strong commitment to non-violence, justice and peace," he said.

We are not sure whether she knows about this award, but what we can tell you that our chairperson, Ela Gandhi had sent a letter to the Burmese ambassador in Pretoria and it was returned without being opened, he added.

Kearney said that South Africa fully supports Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmarese people in their struggles.

Accepting the award, Win said it was a great honour for him to receive the prestigious award on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Terming Aung San Suu Kyi a devoted follower of Mahatma Gandhi's principles and moral values, Win called on India and South Africa to support their struggles for freedom.

The Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province Zweli Mkhize, who was the guest of honour, said: "The people and government of South Africa fully supported the struggles of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.'

"We will work with UN Secretary General and the UN to ensure that the elections in Myanmar next year is credible," he said.

We can fully identify with the brutal oppression and restrictions imposed on Aung San Suu Kyi and other freedom fighters because we too experienced the same situation in our country. We want to tell her that her courage, determination and compassion will be stronger than the iron bars and prison cages, Mkhize said, adding "The military will not win."

The Mahatma Gandhi Foundation also presented the Satyagraha awards former activists involved in the anti-apartheid struggles.

The Mahatma Gandhi Foundation first initiated the awards in 2003 in order to honour those who had struggled for South Africa's freedom and also international freedom fighters.

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M Subramoney in Durban
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