Aung San Suu Kyi's visit is part of Burma's next task
But not all of these ceasefires have held. In June 2011 fighting resumed between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Organisation. Kachin civilians have been forced to porter for the army, killed by indiscriminate shelling and had food and property destroyed. Tens of thousands have been displaced. The government must stop abuses against Kachin civilians and grant unfettered access so urgent humanitarian assistance can reach those affected.
Particularly disturbing is the sectarian violence in western Rakhine state between the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic minority and the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, which erupted earlier this month.
The Rohingya have faced widespread repression and discrimination at the hands of the Burmese authorities for decades. As the violence continues, an unknown number of people have been killed in the western state and with at least 60,000 newly displaced persons the humanitarian situation is grave. As with Burma’s prisons, the International Committee of the Red Cross should be given unfettered access to these areas.
The international donor community needs to continue to help, so long as it is satisfied the humanitarian aid is being distributed in a transparent and appropriate way. After the country was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the government used its control of food and aid to reward or punish communities depending on the extent of their support for the new constitution.
Though these problems remain, we should not lose sight of the progress made, or the woman responsible for so much of it.
Today, the people of Ireland have an opportunity to show their support and appreciation to a woman who has, with limitless compassion, put the needs of her people before anything else.
But her visit today, and the rest of her tour of Europe, is also about ensuring support for the Burmese struggle for democracy and human rights from the international community is continued and strengthened. Although her party is now represented in parliament and she is the elected leader of the opposition, power still fundamentally rests with the military government.
Changing this will require not just the patience and determination of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people, it will need the active support of governments and international organisations.
Her release from prison and the changes in Burma are not the end of a struggle: they are the beginning of a new one.
Colm O’Gorman is executive director of Amnesty International Ireland