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Work on Suu Kyi visit under way

Local Burmese, IPFW, Coliseum officials meet

Suu Kyi

– Preparations are falling into place for Aung San Suu Kyi’s Sept. 25 appearance in Fort Wayne.

Organizers met for two hours Thursday to sort out details ahead of the Burmese democracy leader’s speech at Memorial Coliseum.

George McClellan, vice chancellor for student affairs at IPFW, said the group’s latest plans include:

•The Coliseum will open its doors to the public at 7:30 a.m., pending approval by the U.S. State and Homeland Security departments. Representatives of those departments will inspect the site next week.

As previously reported, the program featuring Suu Kyi will run from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Admission is free.

•WFWA-TV PBS 39 will broadcast Suu Kyi’s appearance and translate her speech from Burmese to English. The process will involve a translator and a stenographer working at WFWA studios near the Coliseum.

McClellan said there will be “a momentary lag” between the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s spoken remarks and the English text that scrolls on two screens flanking the Coliseum stage.

Thursday’s meeting at the Coliseum involved more than 20 leaders of the local Burmese community and representatives of the Coliseum, IPFW, WFWA and the city-county Homeland Security office. McClellan said the group will share more information at a news conference Wednesday.

Randy Brown, the Coliseum’s general manager, said many details will be determined by Suu Kyi and federal security officials – such as whether audience members will be searched as they enter the building and whether they can take photographs inside the arena.

Sponsors expect a capacity crowd. The Coliseum will have about 10,000 seats available for Suu Kyi’s appearance, although many on the floor will be reserved.

“We’re getting phone calls from schools wanting to bring busloads of kids,” McClellan said.

Brown has received requests for media credentials from news organizations around the world, including China’s government news agency.

“This is a big deal,” he said.

The local Burmese community – with 3,800 residents, it is among the nation’s largest – is stressing the inclusiveness of the event, McClellan said.

“To take the lead in arranging for this world figure to come here and speak is an incredible gift that they are sharing,” McClellan said.

Military rulers of Myanmar, formerly called Burma, freed Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010, and she won election this year to her nation’s budding parliament. During a three-week trip to the U.S., the leader of the National League for Democracy Party will also make appearances in New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles and at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., will be among senators who will meet with Suu Kyi on Wednesday in Washington, according to Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher. Lugar is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The same day, Suu Kyi, 67, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the Capitol. It is the highest honor given by Congress.

Myanmar President Thein Sein is planning a 3-day U.S. visit the same time Suu Kyi will be in Fort Wayne, according to media reports. He will attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.