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Peer ‘starstruck’ by Aung San Suu Kyi
A WORCESTER peer played an instrumental role in organising the recent visit of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ms Suu Kyi accepted an honorary degree from Oxford University last Wednesday before addressing members of both houses of Parliament on Thursday.
The visit was instigated by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who knew Ms Suu Kyi when they both studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford from 1964 to 1967.
Ms Suu Kyi, who spent nearly 20 years under house arrest in Burma, was awarded the honorary degree in 1991 but was unable to collect it until now for fear she would not be allowed to return home.
Lord Faulkner, a member of the British Burmese all party parliamentary group, first mentioned the outstanding degree during a chance conversation with the university’s vice-chancellor.
He said: “I then got a message to her in Rangoon through the British Embassy just asking her if she would be interested and pleased to receive the degree and the word came back, yes.”
He visited her at her home in February to invite her to the ceremony.
He said: “She said she would come and it would give her the chance to spend her 67th birthday in Oxford with her son.
“From that point the rest of her visit started to take shape.“ Lord Faulkner also approached the speakers of both houses to see if she could address parliament.
They agreed and Ms Suu Kyi became the first opposition leader and only the second woman after the Queen to address a joint session of both houses in Westminster Hall.
Remembering his Oxford days, Lord Faulkner said: “She was the only Burmese student in Oxford at the time and the only student whose father had been assassinated as prime minister so she was pretty special and we knew that.
“I don’t think we ever dreamed that she would achieve this world status that she has acquired now.”
Lord Faulkner said the young Ms Suu Kyi was “unflamboyant and very quiet” but already possessed some of the qualities for which she has become known.
On meeting her again last week, he said: “I was absolutely starstruck by her. She is the most magnetic personality I’ve ever met.”
Lord Faulkner, who attended both events, said: “She gave an extraordinary speech after the degree ceremony.
“It was astonishing. There was virtually not a dry eye in the place.
“She was talking about how her time in Oxford was her happiest time, how being a student there in the 60s was an idyllic experience and how she met her husband and had her family.
“I then met her again at the Speaker’s house for tea.
"We talked a bit about the sort of lectures we went to and the people we both knew.
“It has been a remarkable week.”