Aung San Suu Kyi Set for First International Trip in Over 2 Decades

Posted May 29th, 2012 at 1:20 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's long-time democracy icon and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi departs for Thailand Tuesday for her first international trip in 24 years.

The newly elected parliamentarian had spent 15 of the past 22 years in detention for challenging the oppressive military leadership that ruled Burma for decades.

She will arrive in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Tuesday, where she is expected to meet with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Burmese opposition leader will also address the World Economic Forum on East Asia later this week.

The Nobel laureate, who was released from house arrest in 2010, had previously refused to leave Burma out of fear that authorities would not let her return.

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

Aung San Suu Kyi's multi-day 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 meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is wrapping up his three-day visit to strengthen trade and investment links between the two Asian neighbors.

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 that 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.

The 66-year-old has not traveled outside Burma since returning to her homeland in 1988, when she returned to visit her ailing mother and became swept up in the country's politics.

Her international journeys follow months of dramatic change in Burma, including a historic election in April that won her a seat in a parliament that replaces nearly five decades of military rule.