Suu Kyi celebrates birthday in Britain
02:37 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Aung San Suu Kyi meets DJ whose show she listened to during house arrest

Dave Lee Travis said it was "real pleasure" to meet the democracy leader

Suu Kyi paid tribute to supporters around world who gave her strength

She will address both houses of parliament Thursday on four-day visit to UK

CNN  — 

Aung San Suu Kyi finally put a face on Tuesday to the radio DJ whose show gave her a lifeline to the outside world during her years under house arrest in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The Nobel laureate has previously described how the BBC World Service music show hosted by Dave Lee Travis made her confinement “much more bearable.”

In a visit to the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London, Suu Kyi met the DJ. Asked if she knew who Travis, once known to British listeners as the “Hairy Cornflake,” was, Suu Kyi replied: “I know, I heard you yesterday.”

Travis told her: “It’s a real pleasure to have met you in person after all the nice things you said about the program.”

The veteran broadcaster said Suu Kyi recalled how she was once “thrilled” to have heard the voice of a Burmese boy on his program “A Jolly Good Show.”

An unusually tongue-tied Travis, whose broadcasting career started in the 1960s on the off-shore pirate Radio Caroline, later told CNN: “I don’t know how to explain it, considering my job, I am a bit lost for words.

“She is a shining beacon, she is phenomenal. I still can’t get over the fact that, you know, me a broadcaster and her, you know, a world figure, have got anything in common but we have. I think obviously what is more so from her than me is humanity … I guess humanity in a way was reflected on my radio program because we touched the whole world.”

During a four-day visit to Britain – her first since 1988 – Suu Kyi will meet Prime Minister David Cameron and address both houses of parliament. Earlier on Tuesday she described how supporters around the world had given her strength while she campaigned against Myanmar’s military regime.

What Suu Kyi’s moment shows us

Speaking to an enthusiastic audience at the London School of Economics on her 67th birthday, she said: “During this journey I have found great warmth and great support from people all over the world.”

Suu Kyi was visiting Britain days after she accepted the Nobel peace prize in Oslo, Norway. Her historic first trip to Europe after years of house arrest signals the progress toward reform in Myanmar over the past year.

Suu Kyi was unable to accept the Nobel when it was awarded in 1991 because she was under house arrest in Myanmar. Her husband and two sons accepted it then on her behalf, paying tribute to her sacrifice.

Greeted by heartfelt applause from those gathered in Oslo City Hall, Suu Kyi spoke of what peace meant to her and also of her country’s fragile progress toward democratic reform.

“Over the past year there have been signs that the endeavors of those who believe in democracy and human rights are beginning to bear fruit in Burma. There have been changes in a positive direction; steps towards democratization have been taken,” she said.

The trip is Suu Kyi’s second abroad since she returned to Myanmar in 1988 to care for her dying mother, and comes on the heels of her first trip outside the country earlier this year.

Suu Kyi was recently elected to parliament as her National League for Democracy won dozens of seats in by-elections. It remains a minority in parliament, but the elections marked a turning point for the country after decades of oppression by its military rulers.

A military coup in September 1988 put Gen. Saw Maung in power, setting off anti-government demonstrations and a crackdown that left hundreds dead.

Suu Kyi – whose husband Michael Aris remained in England until his death in 1999 – became a leading activist and co-founder of an opposition group, the National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest for the first time the following July on charges of trying to divide the military. She spent much of the next two decades confined to her home by the ruling junta.

When her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide vote, the military rulers – in power since 1962 – refused to let the National League for Democracy serve, nullifying the results.

A year later, Suu Kyi won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, which cited her “nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights.” But she remained in detention.

Accepting the prize at the time on his mother’s behalf, Alexander Aris said, “I personally believe that, by her own dedication and personal sacrifice, she has come to be a worthy symbol through whom the plight of all the people of Burma may be recognized.”

The military rulers have since loosened their grip on power, allowing a series of democratic reforms. Her house arrest ended in 2010, and she was able to travel around the country during her party’s election campaign this year.

Smiling Suu Kyi lays out ‘ambitious’ plan for Myanmar