Students who took to the streets of Rangoon in 1991 to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi have gathered to mark 20 years since the Burmese opposition icon was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
An event was held on Saturday at the Sadu Priyati Shwenyawah lecturing monastery in Rangoon. Around 1,000 people, including Suu Kyi and foreign diplomats, attended. “We were arrested [in 1991] for staging a protest at the university calling for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said activist Ko Ko Gyi at the ceremony. “Now, after 20 years, we can finally reunite outside so we are holding this event.”
Around 300 people were detained in the 1991 protests, two years into Suu Kyi’s six-year spell under house arrest. Ko Ko Gyi lamented that while the 66-year-old was now free, some of those arrested two decades ago remain behind bars.
Suu Kyi was unable to accept the award in person, and instead her two sons, Kim and Alexander Aris, represented her. In awarding her the prize, the Nobel committee said: “Suu Kyi’s struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.”
In her speech on Saturday to waiting crowds, the opposition leader questioned the notion of peace in modern-day Burma.
“People have been talking about peace over and over, and I wonder how they interpret the essence of the word. It makes me wonder if some people, who keep saying that they want to have peace, ever think to themselves what peace means.
“For me, to put it simply, peace means you feel comfort both when you are awake and asleep.”
The prize was shared this year by Liberian peace activists Leymah Roberta Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the latter of whom is now president, and Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman.