When Aung San Suu Kyi made her unprecedented address to the British Parliament Thursday, Voice of America was the only broadcaster to carry the full speech in Burmese.
“Other Burmese language radio stations also covered the same news. But in presenting a translated version, the VOA beat them to it. You did a very good job,” one audience letter said.
VOA radio carried live updates as the Burmese democracy leader made her historic address. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spoke in English, was the first non-head of state to speak to both houses of the British Parliament. Following her address, VOA television broadcast the speech by satellite with Burmese subtitles. State-run media did not cover the event.
VOA’s Burmese Service has provided extensive first-hand coverage of the democracy leader’s visit to Europe, including a stop in Switzerland where she addressed the International Labor Organization, and Norway where she officially accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. Until her release from house arrest in 2010, she spent two decades under house arrest.
Earlier this year, VOA updated the format of its Burmese language TV news magazine, a fast paced half-hour daily show that highlights the latest developments from the region and around the world. In addition to television and radio, VOA’s Burmese Service also has a popular website, and is available on mobile.
Under the terms of an agreement reached with Burmese officials earlier this month, Voice of America English teaching programs will soon air on Burmese state radio. VOA Director David Ensor, who signed the agreement with Thein Aung, Director General of Myanmar State Radio and Television, said the decision by Burma’s long-isolated government is “a small step, but one that is symbolically important.”
Burma, which was renamed Myanmar by military rulers following the suppression of pro-democracy protests in 1988, has been liberalizing since late last year.