Suu Kyi on first trip abroad in 24 years
BURMA’S OPPOSITION leader began her first trip abroad in nearly a quarter of a century in Thailand yesterday. Aung San Suu Kyi went to offer words of support to refugees from her country who had fled to the neighbouring land.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who will visit Dublin next month, left the Thai capital, Bangkok, to go to Mahachai, which is home to Thailand’s largest population of Burmese migrants.
She was surrounded by supporters chanting “Long live mother Suu!”
There are an estimated two million Burmese migrants in Thailand, who send home much of their wages as remittances to help their relatives in Burma, where at least one-third of the 60 million population lives below the poverty line. She told those gathered not to feel down, or weak. “History is always changing . . . Today, I will make you one promise: I will try my best for you,” she said.
She is due to speak later this week at the World Economic Forum on East Asia.
This trip is a powerful sign of how things are changing in Burma and Ms Suu Kyi’s dignified, resolute defiance has made her an icon for democracy advocates all over the world.
Ms Suu Kyi spent 15 of the last 24 years under house arrest, and even during her periods of freedom, she never dared leave as she knew the junta would not let her back in. This included not venturing abroad to visit her dying husband. The 66-year-old became a member of parliament this month after an historic landslide win for her National League for Democracy (NLD) in a byelection last month.
Her trip to Thailand is the latest milestone in the opening up of Burma and it could do a lot to prompt the West to ease sanctions.
There has been a raft of reforms introduced by President Thein Sein, a general in the former military junta, which took power in a 1962 coup in the former British colony.
He also freed hundreds of political prisoners, relaxed censorship, permitted trade unions, spoke to ethnic rebels in the border region and allowed the NLD to re-register as a political party.
Sanctions have been introduced over the past few decades in response to human rights abuses and broader oppression, such as the violent crackdown on democracy in 2007, that have kept Burma isolated ever since.
Ms Suu Kyi is due to return to Burma briefly before heading to Europe for a five-country tour in mid-June.
This will include a visit to Britain to address parliament, a trip to Oslo to accept the Peace Prize she was awarded 21 years ago, and she will also attend the “Electric Burma” concert in Dublin on June 18th, where U2 singer Bono will present her with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award.
GRACE TRUMPS MILITARY MIGHT': SUU KYI'S DUBLIN VISIT
BURMESE OPPOSITION leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to address a public gathering in Grand Canal Dock following a tribute concert featuring Bono and other artists during her one-day visit to Dublin next month.