The US will present its highest award to Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in September when she makes her first US trip in more than two decades, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected to parliament this year in a dramatic sign of Myanmar’s reforms, will travel to Washington in September to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the aides said.
The medal is the top honor bestowed by the US Congress, with the ceremonies often bringing together the president and top lawmakers. Congress voted to give the medal to Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2008 when the prospect of her leaving Myanmar looked remote.
It will be the 67-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to the US since she was put under house arrest following her party’s victory in 1990 elections, the results of which the military junta refused to accept.
Aung San Suu Kyi did not travel abroad again until May this year when she went to Thailand. Last month, she made an extensive tour of Europe, where she belatedly accepted her Nobel Peace Prize, was feted in major capitals and admitted that she was exhausted.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Aung San Suu Kyi to Washington when the top US diplomat paid a landmark visit to Myanmar in December.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he had no announcement to make on Aung San Suu Kyi’s travels but told reporters: “We look forward to, at an appropriate date, welcoming Aung San Suu Kyi here.”
Aung San Suu Kyi will also visit New York on Sept. 21 to accept an award at a dinner of the Atlantic Council, said Taleen Ananian, a spokeswoman for the think-tank.
The dinner takes place in New York at the same time as the UN General Assembly, which each year brings world leaders to Manhattan. Aung San Suu Kyi lived in New York and worked at the UN secretariat from 1969 to 1971.
The Atlantic Council said it would present its “Global Citizen” awards to Aung San Suu Kyi and Japan’s Sadako Ogata, a former UN high commissioner for refugees.
“By honoring two such brave women — one of the most well-known political prisoners of our times and a courageous campaigner for human rights from Bosnia to Rwanda — we help define the notion of global citizenship even as we honor it,” Atlantic Council president and CEO Frederick Kempe said in a statement.
The think-tank will also present awards to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the 89-year-old former secretary of state and apostle of realpolitik, and music legend and humanitarian Quincy Jones.
Since taking office last year, Burmese President Thein Sein has surprised even many cynics by reaching out to Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minorities, and freeing political prisoners.
The reforms came after US President Barack Obama opened talks with Myanmar, offering an easing of sanctions in return for movement toward democracy.
Obama had tied his policy closely to Aung San Suu Kyi, who enjoys wide respect across the US political spectrum. However, Obama last week made a rare break with Aung San Suu Kyi by opening Myanmar to US investment — including in the oil and gas sector.
Aung San Suu Kyi had urged foreign companies to hold back on partnering with the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise until it undertakes reforms.