Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 08:08 UK

US Senate honours Burma's Suu Kyi

Burma protester in Japan, file image
Ms Suu Kyi remains a focal point of opposition to Burma's junta

The US Senate has voted to award Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi its highest honour - the Congressional Gold Medal.

The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives last December, was passed unopposed in the Senate.

US-based Burma campaigners welcomed the move, saying the imprisoned opposition leader "richly deserves" the award.

Burma's generals have held Ms Suu Kyi for more than 12 of the past 18 years, mostly under house arrest.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won polls in 1990 but the junta never handed over power.

'Courage and kindness'

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who proposed the legislation with Republican Mitch McConnell, confirmed the bill's approval.

1989: Put under house arrest as Burma's leaders declare martial law
1990: National League for Democracy (NLD) wins general election; military does not recognise the result
1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted
2000-02: Second period of house arrest
May 2003: Detained after clash between NLD and government forces
Sep 2003: Allowed home after medical treatment, but under effective house arrest
"This Congressional Gold Medal is a tribute to Suu Kyi's courage and conviction, and a symbol of solidarity with the oppressed people of Burma," she said.

Aung Din, of the US Campaign for Burma, said Burmese people would be proud that Ms Suu Kyi was being honoured in such a way.

"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," he said.

"However, the generals, who control over 400,000 soldiers, are losing a battle with a single, unarmed woman. Her only tools are courage and loving kindness."

It was not clear when, or how, Ms Suu Kyi would be presented with the medal.

More than 300 individuals and groups have received the Congressional Gold Medal.

George Washington was awarded the first medal, which originally was given to military heroes but was later expanded to include prominent humanitarians, scientists, explorers, artists and others.

Non-American recipients of the medal include Winston Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa.


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