Aung San Suu Kyi meets with high school students

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to students at the Blaisdell Center
Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to students at the Blaisdell Center

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma held a question and answer session with high school students Saturday.

It is one of the public events as part of the first visit to Hawaii for the opposition leader of Burma, the southeast Asian country also known as Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi's arrived in Honolulu Friday for a weekend of public and private appearances. Her trip was co-hosed by the Hawaii Community Foundation, Rotary International, the Easr-West Center and the Myanmar Association of Hawaii.

Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma's opposition party, the National league for Democracy, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She was held under house arrest by the country's ruling military junta for much of the last 21 years, with her longest detainment from May 2003 to November 2010.

She said being under house arrest taught her that her life wasn't built around things that required people to be present. "It's not that I don't love my friends, and it's not that I don't like the company of other people. I like it," she said. "But I don't mind not having company, either. So that as one of the first things I learned about house arrest."

Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in elections held in April 2012.

About 300 high school students attended the event at the Blaisdell Center sponsored by the foundation's Pillars of Peace Hawaii program, which also sponsored last year's visit by the Dalai Lama. Suu Kyi answered questions that had been submitted online by students, with the questions read by a moderator.

"I did expect that it would be a big deal because of the person that she is, someone who in my opinion is like a global ambassador in a way, and someone that is such a strong influence," said McKinley High School student Alina Oh. She submitted one of the questions that was read at the gathering.

But Suu Kyi also displayed a humorous streak, like when she was asked about what childhood experiences changed her life. "I became who I am because I was lucky in choosing my parents," she said and the audience responded with laughter. "I made sure I had the best parents possible for the situation."

"She has a wide sense of humor," said Maryknoll High student Andrew Phomsouvanh, another student whose question was read to Suu Kyi. "And I think as a person, she knows what she believes in, and I admire her for that."

Suu Kyi answered seriously when asked what she wished to be the future of her country. "I would like to see Burma as a strong, thriving democracy. That is to say, a society in which my people can grow and become part of the world and be able to give to the world," she said.

Suu Kyi is scheduled to leave Hawaii sometime Sunday.

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