Aung San Suu Kyi Starts European Tour with Speech in Geneva

Posted June 14th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for international aid and investment that will help promote further democratic reform in Burma, as she kicked off her landmark European tour in Geneva.

The newly elected lawmaker said in an address Thursday to the International Labor Organization that she would like to see the Burmese government make additional reforms to protect the rights of workers in the once isolated country.

Her comments come a day after the ILO, a U.N. agency that sets and monitors global labor conditions, lifted sanctions against Burma after its government pledged to abolish forced labor by 2015.

Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted with flowers and applause at the U.N.'s Geneva office. Her speech comes at the outset of her first trip to Europe in 24 years, having spent much of the past two decades under house arrest.

The 67-year-old democracy activist, who was released in 2010, had previously been afraid to leave the country out of fear the government would not let her return.

The trip is a sign of her increased confidence in Burma's nascent reform process, which began last year when the country's long-time military rulers ceded power to a quasi-civilian government.

Following her address in Geneva, she will travel to the Swiss capital of Bern to meet President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

On Friday, she will visit the Swiss parliament before heading for Oslo where she is due to formally accept the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which she was unable to receive in person due to her detention.

Later in the trip, Aung San Suu Kyi will address Britain's parliament and receive an Amnesty International human rights award in Dublin from rock star Bono.

She will also spend time in Britain, where she lived for years with her late husband before returning to Burma in 1988.