Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has left Myanmar on her first trip to Europe since 1988. The newly elected parliamentarian, who sat out years of house arrest, will collect her two-decades-old Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.
In a test for tenuous democracy reforms in Myanmar, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is flying to Europe for a five-nation tour after two decades of defiance to military rule in what was formerly known as Burma.
For years, the opposition figure had not dared to leave Myanmar – even to visit her British husband, Oxford scholar Michael Aris, before his death from cancer in 1999 – fearing that generals in Yangon would not let her return.
In 2010 she was released from house arrest and won a seat in a parliamentary by-election last April – moves that prompted Western nations to ease sanctions on the former military government.
Accompanying the 66-year-old abroad are four members of her opposition National League for Democracy.
Leaving via Yangon airport, Suu Kyi said she expected to make comparisons with modern trends abroad: "I know how backward (Myanmar) is when I reach the other countries."
"I would like to do my best for the interests of the people," she told reporters.
Geneva, then Oslo
Suu Kyi's first stop will be Geneva, where she will attend a International Labor Organization conference. Norway has also invited her to Oslo to accept her Nobel Prize in person.
In London she will celebrate her birthday with her two Britain-based sons and make a rare address to both houses of Britain's parliament. And in Dublin she has been invited to an Amnesty International concert with U2 frontman Bono, a long-time supporter of Suu Kyi.
#link#The daughter of Myanmar's independence hero General Aung San, Suu Kyi's ordeal in Yangon began in 1988 when she left England to nurse her dying mother back home. She became embroiled in an uprising against the then-military regime.
Her trip abroad, which follows a recent trip to neighboring Thailand, reportedly irked current president Thein Sein. She warned diplomats against "reckless optimism" in Myanmar, saying it still lacked basic principles of democracy.
Sein's government is currently trying to contain unrest in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, where 21 people have been killed in communal clashes between local Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
Suu Kyi is due to return to Myamar for the opening session of parliament on July 4.
ipj/tj (AP, dpa, AFP)