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Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Nobel laureates stage rally for Myanmar dissident

December 9, 2001

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— Myanmar's military rulers must free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and release all the Southeast Asian country's political prisoners, many of her fellow Nobel peace laureates declared at a rally here Saturday.

"We are gathered together to salute a giant among women and men," South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu told an audience of several hundred that had gathered in front of the Norwegian Parliament building despite a cold rain.

"In physical stature, she is petite, elegant and gorgeous," Tutu continued, his voice ringing with the tones of a preacher. "But in moral stature, she is a giant, so the big men are scared of her and are armed to the teeth, and they still run scared because they know that this is a moral universe and that injustice and oppression will never have the last word."

The rally came on the first of a three-day gathering that will culminate with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan receiving this year's peace prize. Annan will receive the $940,000 award, which he shares with the United Nations, in an elaborate ceremony Monday at Oslo's city hall, followed by a banquet.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to the United Nations and the secretary-general on Oct. 12 for their roles at the "forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world."

A satellite connection linked the rally for Suu Kyi to a similar event in Washington, D.C., at which former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke. Organizers said special events calling for democracy in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, also were conducted Saturday in dozens of other cities around the world.

President Bush sent a message to Oslo in which he declared that Suu Kyi's actions "demonstrate how a life of quiet dignity can serve as a powerful force for good." She "inspires countless people around the world who strive for peace, justice and freedom," Bush said.

Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, the Oxford-educated Suu Kyi, 56, has been under house arrest for most of the time since she returned to Myanmar from living abroad in 1988. She is the daughter of Aung San, a hero of the country's struggle for independence from Britain, and that fact is believed to have protected her from physical harm.

More than 10 peace prize winners appeared at the Oslo rally.

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