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For the first time, Myanmar's president praises Aung San Suu Kyi (+video)

In a sign that five decades of authoritarian rule is coming to an end, Myanmar President Thein Sein paid unprecedented respect to opposition leader and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets President Barack Obama on a trip to the United States. Sarah Charlton reports.
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Myanmar's president Thursday said his country has taken irreversible steps toward democracy and paid unprecedented public tribute to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

President Thein Sein told the U.N. General Assembly that the country also known as Burma is leaving behind five decades of authoritarian rule.

It was a speech that reflected the momentous changes in Myanmar over the past year, as Suu Kyi has been elected to parliament after 15 years of house arrest, and the country has shed its pariah status.

For the first time, Myanmar's speech to the U.N.'s annual gathering of world leaders was broadcast live on state television at home. Never before had such a speech even mentioned the opposition leader, whose peaceful struggle against military rule won international admiration but only the ire of the former junta.

While former general Thein Sein has orchestrated Myanmar's political opening, he has not publicly praised Suu Kyi before, nor referred to her as "Nobel laureate" as he did Thursday.

"As a Myanmar citizen, I would like to congratulate her for the honors she has received in this country in recognition of her efforts for democracy," Thein Sein said.

Suu Kyi is currently visiting America, and last week met President Barack Obama and was presented with Congress' highest award. She attended a meeting on global education on the sidelines of the General Assembly Wednesday.


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