Aung San Suu Kyi Departs for Bangkok on First International Trip in Over Two Decades

Posted May 29th, 2012 at 10:45 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's long-time democracy icon and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi left Burma late Tuesday for Bangkok, Thailand, marking the first time in 24 years that she has left her home country.

The Burmese opposition leader is to spend several days in Thailand. She is expected to meet with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok and will also address the World Economic Forum on East Asia later this week.

Bangkok's skyscrapers and congested urban life sit in stark contrast to the underdeveloped city of Rangoon, where the newly elected parliament member spent 15 of the past 22 years in detention for challenging the oppressive military leadership that ruled Burma for decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010, having previously refused to leave Burma out of fear authorities would not let her return.

The Nobel laureate's first international trip is seen by many as a landmark moment in Burma's political reform process, which began last year when the country's military rulers transferred power to a nominally civilian government.

Aung San Suu Kyi's trip to neighboring Thailand will also include a visit with some of the tens of thousands of Burmese refugees and migrant workers who fled ethnic conflict in Burma's border regions.

Before leaving for Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is wrapping up a landmark three-day visit to Burma to strengthen trade and investment links between the two Asian neighbors. Speaking at a news conference, Aung San Suu Kyi said she was looking forward to the prospect of closer ties with India.

“Because I think we have much to learn from one another and we have much to contribute to peace and stability in this region, because our goals, our democratic goals work on the basis of peace and stability and these are what we shall aim towards.”

Mr. Singh is the first Indian prime minister to visit Burma since 1987. His meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as an indication India is open to reaffirming ties with Burma's opposition movement.

New Delhi has long been criticized for its ties with Burma's oppressive former military leadership.

Aung San Suu Kyi's trip to Thailand comes just weeks before she is scheduled to tour several European countries.

She will give a speech to the International Labor Organization conference in Geneva on June 14. She will also visit Norway on June 16 to formally receive the Nobel Peace Prize that she won nearly 21 years ago but was unable to accept in person because of her detention. She later plans to address both houses of parliament in Britain, where she lived for years with her husband, who is now deceased.