The Straits Times
Published on Sep 20, 2012

Myanmar's Suu Kyi meets Obama, receives medal from Congress


WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met President Barack Obama at the White House and received the highest congressional award on Wednesday. Ms Suu Kyi, making a coast-to-coast United States (US) tour, held private talks with Mr Obama in the Oval Office after being feted by lawmakers in the ornate US Capitol, where she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal for her long fight for democracy in a country ruled by army generals since 1962.

"This is one of the most moving days of my life, to be here in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land," she said. "Among all these faces are some I saw while I was under house arrest, and some I saw after I was released from house arrest," said Ms Suu Kyi, acknowledging strong support from US lawmakers during her 17 years of house arrest.

The Oval Office setting for the first meeting between the two Nobel Peace laureates afforded Ms Suu Kyi's visit some of the trappings normally reserved for visiting foreign presidents and prime ministers. But the White House, apparently treading carefully lest they allow the Ms Suu Kyi events upstage Myanmar's government, kept the meeting low-key. News photographers were allowed in briefly but not television cameras or print reporters.

Mr Obama and Ms Suu Kyi met for about half an hour. Mr Obama, seeking re-election in November, seised the chance to meet Ms Suu Kyi on the second day of her US tour. The encounter could help him highlight what many see as a foreign policy accomplishment of his administration in helping to push Myanmar's generals onto the path of democratic change.