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Suu Kyi urges minority rights in first address to MPs

world Updated: Jul 25, 2012 11:20 IST

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday called for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in her first ever speech to the country's fledgling parliament.

"To become a truly democratic union with a spirit of the union, equal rights and mutual respect, I urge all members of parliament to discuss the enactment of the laws needed to protect equal rights of ethnicities," she said.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent much of the past two decades locked up by the former military junta, won her first seat in parliament in landmark by-elections in April.

Her entry into mainstream politics is one of the most visible signs of change under a new reformist government which took power last year under President Thein Sein, a former general.

Civil war has plagued parts of the country formerly known as Burma since it won independence from Britain in 1948, and many members of ethnic minority groups are suspicious of the majority Burmans including Suu Kyi.

Recent clashes in western Rakhine state between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya have left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Myanmar's government considers the Rohingya to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and view them with hostility.