The day after her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Aung San Suu Kyi visited Bergen, a Norwegian town nestled on a massive fjord, and the site of her first international award 22 years ago.
When Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Burma, The Rafto Foundation, based in Bergen, gave her its 1990 award for her peaceful struggle under the Burmese military dictatorship.
Thousands of fans turned out on a town square to hear her accept the award and to speak, according to wire reports.
“My journey to Bergen began a long time ago when man first started to realize that all of us were born to live with human dignity,” Suu Kyi told the audience.
“We don’t have to see the end of the road far away in one instant,” she said, referring to Burma’s move toward democracy and efforts to achieve peace and national reconciliation. “We just have to see the right way to get there. And we in Burma are trying to reach our goal. One step is enough for me. If there is enough light to make us take the right steps one by one, then we'll reach our goal in safety and peace."
She thanked the people of Norway for providing a home to many Burmese refugees and for its democratic tolerance and respect for multiculturalism.
To establish a peaceful society in Burma, where sectarian strife has erupted between Buddhist and Muslims over the past several weeks, she said, “We must learn to live together, to work together, to trust one another, and to respect one another.”
Expressing concern for the violence, which has claimed at least 50 lives and seen thousands of homes torched, she said, “We really have to calm it down. We have to avoid saying and doing things that’ll make the problem worse.”
Over the past weeks, observers said the Internet in Burma has been filled with hate speech directed against the Rohingya Muslim population, who are denied citizenship by the Burmese government.
When Suu Kyi arrived in Norway on Friday, she was met by about 12,000 people waiting in the rain to greet her in Oslo. Her European tour would have been unimaginable before an election 19 months ago, and her subsequent release from house arrest.
The quasi-civilian government, although run by a Parliament packed with retired and serving military officers, has introduced a series of democratic reforms designed to move Burma into the community of nations.