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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Suu Kyi to Receive International Gandhi Award

In the latest in a long list of international honors, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been named the recipient of this year’s Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation, which will be awarded at a ceremony to be held in Durban, South Africa on July 20.

The prize, also known as the MAGI Award, is given to those who inspire young people to make a commitment to non-violence, forgiveness and reconciliation. It was inaugurated in 2003 to mark the centenary of Indian Opinion, a newspaper published in South Africa by Mahatma Gandhi.

The award is given by South Africa’s Gandhi Development Trust, which was established in August 2002 with the aim of promoting a deeper understanding of the principles of democracy, nonviolence and human values.

Suu Kyi, who is currently facing charges of violating the conditions of her house arrest just weeks before her detention was due to end, has received more that 80 international awards, including the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and India’s Jawaharlal Nehru Award.

In a statement released today, South Africa’s foreign minister expressed grave concern over Suu Kyi’s trial, which stems from an incident involving an intruder who allegedly stayed overnight at her home.

“The South African government calls on the authorities in Myanmar to release Ms Suu Kyi immediately,” read the statement.

During a two-year stint as a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council, the South African government under former President Thabo Mbeki was criticized for voting against resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Burma.

New Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has not signaled any major change of policy on Burma, but has urged a “negotiated political solution between the government and the opposition” to resolve the country’s longstanding political impasse.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, former President Kim Dae-jung met with a group of exiled Burmese parliamentary leaders and gave them a donation of US $10,000 to support Suu Kyi’s cause.

“Korea also struggled under a military dictatorship for a long period of time before achieving democracy. I am sure that history will make note of your dedication to righteousness and freedom,” Kim told members of the South Korean chapter of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area).


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