Award aimed at protecting Suu Kyi

DUBLIN - Myanmar's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was yesterday named the recipient of Amnesty International's highest honour - the Ambassador of Conscience Award.

DUBLIN - Myanmar's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was yesterday named the recipient of Amnesty International's highest honour - the Ambassador of Conscience Award.

The human rights watchdog said it hoped this would protect her as she faces a potential prison sentence.

Amnesty general secretary Irene Khan said the award was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Suu Kyi's initial arrest on July 20 1989 when she led a campaign to oust Myanmar's military dictators.

Suu Kyi's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, won national elections in 1990 but the military refused to relinquish power. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years.

"In those ... often dark years Aung San Suu Kyi has remained a symbol of hope, courage and the undying defence of human rights," Khan said.

Suu Kyi, 64, is on trial for allegedly harbouring an American who swam out to her residence uninvited. The offence of violating house-arrest rules carries a potential five-year prison sentence, and foreign diplomats have been barred from key parts of her trial.

Suu Kyi's supporters accuse Myanmar's junta of seeking to put her behind bars until after elections in 2010.

U2 - which won the top amnesty honour in 2005 in recognition of singer Bono's humanitarian work - has been honouring Suu Kyi at each performance of the band's European tour. - Sapa-AP

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