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US House of Reps. Votes to Give Aung San Suu Kyi Highest Honor (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
December 17th, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) The US House of Representatives voted (400-0) today to grant the body’s highest honor – The Congressional Gold Medal — to the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. The effort was led by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Don Manzullo (R-IL). The legislation, which required co-sponsorship by 2/3 of the entire House, overwhelmingly passed the US House on Monday, December 17th. The bill will now be referred to the US Senate, which must also pass the measure.

“This award will generate major international attention for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and further increase global resolve for her necessary, immediate and unconditional release.” says Aung Din, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma who worked closely with her during Burma’s 1988 popular uprising that nearly toppled years of military rule. “It is time for the world to press for a meaningful and time-bound process of achieving democracy and national reconciliation in Burma.”

Some of the world’s most prominent leaders in governments, human rights, and the arts have won the Congressional Gold Medal, including Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel. The House resolution says Aung San Suu Kyi “remains committed to peaceful dialogue with her captors, Burmese military junta, despite an assassination attempt against her life, her prolonged illegal imprisonment, the constant public vilification of her character, and her inability to see her children or to see her husband before his death.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, often called “Burma’s Gandhi” or “Burma’s Nelson Mandela” in the international media, is the leader of the struggle for human rights and democracy in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. Not just a human rights advocate, she is the legitimate leader of the Burmese people, leading her political party the National League for Democracy to a victory in the country’s last democratic election. She has been locked up under house arrest (and at times in prison) for 12 of the past 18 years by Burma‘s ruling military regime.

The regime is among the world’s most brutal, imprisoning up to 2,000 political prisoners, conscripting more child soldiers than any other country in the world, and using rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities. The regime has been condemned by the UN General Assembly and in October the UN Security Council issued its first ever statement calling for changes in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has survived two assassination attempts orchestrated by the military regime while thousands of her colleagues have been imprisoned, tortured, or killed.

“In a world in which public heroes are few and far between, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the greatest people of our time,” added Aung Din. “She richly deserves this award and the Burmese people are so proud that one of our own has been honored in this way.”

The US Campaign for Burma campaigned to support the leaders of the effort.