‘Inspirational’ Aung San Suu Kyi in historic visit to Europe
Published 13 June 2012
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi left Burma today for her first trip to Europe since 1988.
During her two-week visit, she will formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 and address both houses of the British Parliament.
In addition to Britain, the whirlwind tour will take in Switzerland, Norway, France and Ireland, where a music concert in Dublin is being organised by the city’s mayor and Amnesty International in her honour.
Her first engagement is an address to the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, which is working to end forced labour in countries including Burma.
After two decades, she will finally deliver her Nobel lecture at the Oslo City Hall in Norway on Saturday.
During the Dublin concert, Suu Kyi will be presented with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, the human rights organisation’s highest award. Personalities featuring at the concert include Bono, Bob Geldof, and Riverdance.
In Britain, she will be joined by family members as she celebrates her 67th birthday on 19 June. Two days later, she will address lawmakers in Westminster, an honour normally reserved for heads of state.
Her visit will conclude in France, where she will meet the new French President Francois Hollande.
In a statement ahead of her visit, the UK Catholic Church’s head of international affairs Bishop Declan Lang praised Suu Kyi as an “inspirational figure”.
“Ms Suu Kyi’s tireless commitment to justice, human dignity and the alleviation of poverty has marked her out as an inspirational figure, not only within Burma, but around the world,” he said.
“Her readiness for personal sacrifice and unfaltering commitment to dialogue are deserving of the very highest commendation.
“In particular we recognise her efforts to promote unity amongst Burma’s rich diversity of ethnic and religious groups, and the important relationships that she has built, including with the country’s Catholic Church.
“At this significant time we offer our prayers for all people in Burma, and our continued support for those working to build a peaceful and just future.”
Suu Kyi’s visit is a milestone in Burma’s history as the country continues its remarkable series of reforms.
She spent most of the last two decades under house arrest over her opposition to the ruling military junta, before being finally released two years ago and winning a landslide victory in by-elections this year.