Cheering crowds welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi home yesterday from her triumphant tour of Europe, where she won enthusiastic support for her role in Myanmar’s democratic transition and was celebrated like a head of state.
Thousands of jubilant supporters packed into Yangon’s airport and lined the roads outside waving opposition party flags and holding banners, including one that said: “We are proud of you, Mother Suu!”
Others were clearly impressed by the honorary doctorate she was awarded at Oxford University, shouting: “Long Live Dr Aung San Suu Kyi!”
The 67-year-old opposition leader smiled and waved as supporters lavished her with floral bouquets and she was escorted into a waiting car, which inched through the crowd on the way to her lakeside villa.
During her two-week trip, Aung San Suu Kyi met with political leaders in Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Britain and France.
Supporters said they closely followed Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip online or in the country’s private media, which splashed pictures of her from every stop of the tour across front pages.
“Her Europe trip made this country proud,” said 45-year-old supporter Soe Aung, who waited hours for a chance to see her at the airport. “Now, people on the other side of the world know Myanmar.”
The trip’s highlights included Aung San Suu Kyi’s long-awaited acceptance speech for the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which she won while under house arrest in Myanmar. The former military regime kept her under house arrest for 15 of 23 years. She was freed in 2010 after the military ceded power to a nominally civilian government.
In Britain, she spoke before a joint session of parliament, an honor usually reserved for heads of state. Her speech made her the only woman other than Queen Elizabeth II to address the British Parliament.
Throughout her tour, Aung San Suu Kyi called on Western countries to help Myanmar build its nascent democracy. She reiterated calls for “cautious optimism” in reforms under way and called for “democracy-friendly, human-rights-friendly investments” so that incoming foreign investment would help the impoverished country rather than the wealthy few.
However, her trip did not receive any coverage by Myanmar’s state-run media, nor has the government of Burmese President Thein Sein commented on it. The massive attention Aung San Suu Kyi received during a recent trip to Thailand reportedly irked Thein Sein.