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Thursday, Apr 24th

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France embraces Aung San Suu Kyi

French government officials and citizens have embraced Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is within days of returning home from her two-week European tour of five countries. In Paris on Wednesday, she was again feted and praised at elegant lunches and award ceremonies.

Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-in-Paris-France

“You are a woman of peace and love, and this is why Paris also loves you,” Parisian Mayor Bertrand Delanoehe told her on Wednesday, citing her “unshakeable faith” in the fight for democracy in Burma, as he gave her an honorary citizen of Paris certificate.

Replying in French, Suu Kyi cited  “the deep attachment of Paris to justice and freedom."

“I was surprised and happy that Paris supported my cause with such vigour,” she said, according to wire reports.

She also met Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and other top officials and was honoured with a lunch at the foreign ministry.

On Thursday and Friday, Suu Kyi will go to the University of Sorbonne to talk with students, and she will hold a series of meetings with Burmese support groups in France, who very early responded to the call of the democracy movement in Burma. On Friday, she departs on her return trip to Burma, where the country is experiencing an ugly sectarian conflict between Buddhist and Muslims that has claimed nearly 80 lives.

On Tuesday, after her meeting with President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace, the role of the French energy company, Total, came up, leading the president to tell Suu Kyi “to call him” if she has any concerns about the company’s actions in Burma. Human rights advocates have criticized the company for enriching the former military junta.

But opposition leader Suu Kyi, who is a newly elected member of parliament, has called the company a “responsible investor,” and she said Tuesday she welcomed Total's recent efforts to compensate people displaced by the pipeline that connects the Yadana field to power plants in Thailand.

“With regard to Total I know that there have been many accusations, but I do not want to be shackled by the past. We must go forward to the future,” she said. “Total has made efforts to give sufficient compensation to those who have been displaced by the gas line and to try to do what they can for the employees.”

“So we would like to give everybody an opportunity to engage in business," she said. “We need democracy as well as economic development.”

Suu Kyi said “financial transparency in the extractive industries and in fact business in general” were essential to investment.

Hollande said Tuesday at a press conference, “If it ever happens that they don't respect [regulations], Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to call me anytime so we can put things in order.”

During her European tour, Suu Kyi has called for greater foreign investment that is transparent and responsible, and which will also benefit the Burmese people.

Total has defended its actions by saying the cause of human rights and democracy would not have been advanced by its pulling out of Burma.

Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie traveled to Burma in June and met with Suu Kyi at her home in Rangoon.

Total began operations in 1992. Production started in 2000, at a rate of about 15,000 barrels per day of oil per day.