Video: Aung San Suu Kyi collects rights prize 23 years late

Sakharov prize for freedom of thought honours Burmese figure’s battle for democracy

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today to finally collect the Sakharov Prize she was awarded in 1990.

The prize for freedom of thought named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov is awarded annually to individuals or organisations who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom.

Although she won it 23 years ago in recognition of her fight for democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar (formerly Burma), Ms Suu Kyi had been unable to collect it as she was placed under house arrest by military rulers.

Her detention in the former capital Yangon for almost 20 years won her an international reputation as one of the world's most recognisable political prisoners.


She was released in November 2010 and her party won 43 out of the 45 seats available in the April 2012 parliamentary byelections.

Ms Suu Kyi is currently leader of the opposition in parliament.

In a special ceremony to mark the occasion earlier today, European Parliament president Martin Schultz said “Twenty-three years later, we welcome you here, and it is a great moment.”

Ms Suu Kyi told MEPs: “If we stop freedom of thought, we stop progress in the world.”

Ms Suu Kyi is in Europe to try to bring international pressure to bear on the military rulers in her home country to speed up the introduction of pro-democracy measures and changes to Myanmar's constitution.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist