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July 21, 2009 (DVB), Burma's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was yesterday awarded the Mahatma Gandhi prize in a ceremony in South Africa attended by her cousin.
The award was handed to Sein Win, Suu Kyi's cousin and prime minister of the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
Former South African MP and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Ela Gandhi, told DVB that the awarded carried with it a call for Suu Kyi's release.
"We would like the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political detainees and to come to negotiated settlement," she said. "A military solution is not a good solution."
The Gandhi trust had previously sent a notification letter to the Burmese embassy in South Africa acknowledging the award, but the embassy declined to accept the letter and returned it to the trust.
"We are very disappointed with this very impolite response," said a member of the Gandhi trust.
Sein Win said that the award was appropriate given that Suu Kyi had long advocated Gandhi's ideology of non-violence.
"She has always been calling for peace and national reconciliation, and she always urged non-violent struggle," he said. "We think that [this award] is a very appropriate thing and we are very proud of her."
The chairperson of the Free Burma Campaign (South Africa), Dr Thein Win, drew a parallel between the struggle for democratic transition in Burma and in South Africa during apartheid.
"A lot of people who were involved in South Africa's apartheid revolution told us they never expected the revolution to end this quick," he said.
"But sometimes, under particular circumstances, history can be changed in a sudden moment. We are [keeping hope] that truth will win one day."
Reporting by Nay Htoo