Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University on Wednesday, in the city where she studied and brought up the family she would later leave behind.
The Myanmar democracy icon was presented with the doctorate in civil law at the prestigious seat of learning where she studied politics, philosophy and economics in the mid-1960s.
Wearing a traditional longyi skirt under her scarlet academic robes, and flowers in her hair beneath her black velvet cap, Suu Kyi smiled as she received the honour at Oxford's grand 17th century Sheldonian Theatre.
University chancellor Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong, handed her a gilded scroll as around 100 Oxford dons and students applauded, along with other recipients of honorary degrees including spy novelist John le Carre.
He said in Latin: “Unbowed champion of liberty, who have given your people and the whole world an example of courage and endurance, I on my own authority and that of the whole university admit you to the honorary degree of doctor of civil law.”
Suu Kyi was to make a speech after the presentation ceremony.
Receiving the honorary doctorate was one of the highlights of her week-long trip to Britain, part of her first trip to Europe since 1988.
On Thursday she will address both houses of the British parliament - a rare honour bestowed on only four foreign dignitaries since World War II.
In an interview with BBC television on Wednesday, she confirmed her desire to lead the people of Myanmar “if I can lead them in the right way”.
She rejected the suggestion that her release from more than two decades of house arrest in 2010 had been a “confidence trick” aimed at getting sanctions on the country lifted.
She also warned foreign companies rushing to invest in Myanmar since the military-backed civilian government began to implement reforms that they would be closely watched.
They would be exposed if they did not behave in a “democracy-friendly, human rights-friendly” way, she warned.
“And if they are not such companies and if they are doing business with cronies and with those who will use their new economic powers to consolidate the grip of the government, then I think we'll have to expose them,” she added.
Her visit to Britain has been clouded by continued violence in western Myanmar where dozens of people have been killed and an estimated 90 000 people have fled clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and stateless Muslim Rohingya.
On her 67th birthday on Tuesday, she made an emotional return to Oxford, a city heavy with the memories of her late husband, the academic Michael Aris who died of cancer in 1999.
Her former college St Hugh's threw a birthday party and onlookers shouted “welcome back” as she arrived.
Suu Kyi spent nearly two decades in Oxford, and brought up her sons there.
When she left for her homeland to care for her dying mother in 1988, she could not have imagined it would be nearly a quarter of a century before she would return.
As leader of the country's democracy movement, she refused to leave Myanmar, fearing that the military leaders would prevent her from returning.
As a result, she only saw her husband and sons a handful of times in the intervening years. When her husband was dying he urged her to remain in Myanmar and pursue her struggle.
“I've said very often, in fact again and again ad nauseam, that I don't look at what I have done as a sacrifice. It was a choice I made,” Suu Kyi told ITV television in an interview.
“It was a sacrifice for my husband and sons. Especially for my sons, because my husband after all was adult, but the children were young and it must have mattered to them not to have both parents near them.
“And I don't feel good about it, but on the other hand I think that in the end, one decides what one's priorities are and one lives with one's decisions.” - AFP