Senate approves top U.S. honor for Myanmar's Suu Kyi
Saturday, 26 April 2008

REUTERS, WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to award detained Myanmar democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal, America's top civilian honor.

Activists wearing masks of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi protest outside the Chinese embassy in Bangkok in this October 24, 2007 file photo. The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to award detained Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal, America's top civilian honor.The House of Representatives overwhelming approved companion legislation on Dec. 17 to confer the honor on Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Past recipients of the Gold Medal include Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and most recently, Tibet's Dalai Lama.

The military government in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, violently suppressed pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 but the junta refused to hand over power and has detained her for most of the time since then. U.S. Campaign for Burma, a rights group, welcomed the Senate vote.

"The Burmese military generals have tried to isolate Aung San Suu Kyi from her own people and from the international community by keeping her under house arrest for over 12 years," said Aung Din, co-founder of the group.

"She richly deserves this award and the Burmese people are so proud that one of our own has been honored in this way." The European Union will call next week for an international arms embargo on Myanmar's junta and warn of tougher sanctions if the generals fail to improve human rights conditions, according to a statement drafted by EU ambassadors on Thursday.

The resolution repeated a call for the release of more than 1,800 political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and called on the junta to account for all casualties and missing people from the crackdown.

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