Aung San Suu Kyi wants sanctions against Myanmar(Burma) lifted
The Burmese opposition leader, who's now a member of the country's Parliament, is urging an end to US sanctions against her impoverished nation.
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"People had so much going on in their minds: joy, happiness, everything. They just came together as a joy. Everybody was tearing up," said May Ayaroo, a 27-year-old engineer at defense company BAE Systems in Fort Wayne.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Aung San Suu Kyi
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Factory worker Kaung Shein, 42, said he had been among the approximately 1 million students who took part in a failed pro-democracy uprising to protest Burma's military-backed regime in August 1988. Oxford-educated Suu Kyi rose to prominence during that period.
"We are from the 88 Generation," Kaung Shein said. "We align with her. ... We are very excited to be here. We've been waiting for 20 years."
Thousands of the 1988 protesters were killed and tens of thousands more — including Suu Kyi — spent years as political prisoners. Her National League for Democracy party was subsequently stymied by the junta's iron grip on the country. But Suu Kyi voiced cautious hope.
"The differences and problems we have amongst ourselves, I think we can join hands and reconcile and move forward and solve any problems," she said. Suu Kyi delivered most of her speech — and answered most questions — in Burmese, with an English translation by video.
Since 1991, when a single Burmese refugee resettled in Fort Wayne — about two hours north of Indianapolis and 8,000 miles from Myanmar(Burma) — thousands more have followed, many of them relocating under a federal program after years in refugee camps in Thailand.
For some of Fort Wayne's Burmese residents, Suu Kyi's visit is the first tangible connection with the homeland they hope to return to one day.
I will try my best for anyone who wishes to return to Burma to be able to come back and we should all work together to achieve this goal," Suu Kyi said.
Thiya Ba Kyi, a former dentist who earned an MBA after coming to the U.S. in 1994 and now works for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, wants to be a part of the change Suu Kyi is expected to bring.
"I would like to move back," he said. "Hopefully, they'll need educated people who have experience in a democratic country."
Many Burmese refugees left behind careers and have had to learn new skills while others rely on food stamps to survive.
U Tun Oo was elected to parliament in the 1990 election won by Suu Kyi's party that was nullified by the military regime and served as finance minister for the elected government in exile. Now Tun Oo, who was a construction engineer in Asia, works in a Fort Wayne factory. When he's not working, he heads the local branch of Suu Kyi's party.
"She is the hope for the people," said Ba Kyi, who helps the Burmese opposition in exile. "She can bring democracy again in Burma."
But in her Tuesday speech, Suu Kyi warned her supporters — this time in English — that she is not infallible.
"A popular leader is not the same as a good leader," Suu Kyi said. "I hope you keep that in mind."
IN PICTURES: Aung San Suu Kyi