Aung San Suu Kyi accepts honourary degree by surprise video address

The Hon. Flora MacDonald accepted an honorary degree on behalf of human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi at a special ceremony at Carleton in February. (Mike Pinder Photo)

Human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a honorary degree at a special ceremony last month – and while she couldn’t receive it person, she accepted via video link.

Suu Kyi, who cannot leave her home country of Burma for political reasons, appeared on the big screen during the Feb. 22 event, wearing her signature flower behind her ear.

“I accept this degree in all due humility because I was not a student of law,” said Suu Kyi. “What I have learned over the years is that law is one of the greatest achievements of human beings.”

The Hon. Flora MacDonald, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister who has been recognized for her ongoing humanitarian work, accepted the award on Suu Kyi’s behalf.

“She deserves this honorary degree and to that we all heartfully say ‘Amen’,” MacDonald told the crowd of about 100 faculty, staff, students and special guests who attended the ceremony.

Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon, Burma (also known as Myanmar) in 1945. Her father, Aung San, was the commander of the Burmese Independence Army and was assassinated when she was two-years-old.

Although she grew up in a political family, Suu Kyi did not become politically active herself until 1988, when military dictator General Ne Win resigned. As the nation rebelled in an uprising against the government, a violent military crackdown left thousands dead.

In response to the violence, Suu Kyi formed the National League for Democracy and toured the country, despite a government ban against political gatherings. She was removed from the election and placed under house arrest in 1989, without charge. Despite Suu Kyi’s 1990 election victory, the government refused to acknowledge the results.

She spent 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest during which she was awarded many honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize and was made an honorary Canadian citizenship.

The video played at the ceremony was facilitated and attained by the Canadian Friends of Burma, said executive director Tin Maung Htoo.

“This honorary degree … constitutes moral support and is also an indication to the people in Burma that Canadians are … behind them,” said Htoo.

Watch the video at:

MacDonald was pleasantly surprised by the video.

“I am absolutely thrilled to see and hear her again.”

Suu Kyi’s final video statement left the crowd speechless, prompting them to loudly applaud her address.

“I hope that … Carleton University, its students, the students in the rest of Canada and the people of Canada will all join us in our efforts to bring about a society in Burma that is made secure by the rule of law and by the guarantee of basic human and democratic rights,” said Suu Kyi.

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to thank the University of Carleton for this honorary degree of law which they are conferring on me.”

This entry was written by Michelle Zilio and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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