CHIANGRAI TIMES – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will make her first trip outside the country in more than two decades when she visits Thailand next week to attend a regional conference, a spokesman for her party said Thursday.
Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy campaigner who endured years of house arrest under Myanmar’s military rulers, will travel to the Thai capital of Bangkok on Monday where she will participate in the World Economic Forum on East Asia, said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy.
The visit to Bangkok comes ahead of a longer trip to Europe next month during which Suu Kyi will make a series of key addresses, including the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize that she was prevented from collecting in 1991 because she was in detention.
Nyan Win and the organizers of the World Economic Forum declined to give more information about what part Suu Kyi would play at the Bangkok conference.
President Thein Sein of Myanmar, the former military official whose civilian government has instituted many of the country’s recent political reforms, is also scheduled to attend the forum.
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Suu Kyi and 33 other newly elected members of her party took up their seats in the Myanmar parliament at the start of this month, a historic step for the country’s progress toward democracy.
In the past 12 months, Thein Sein’s government has pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, secured a cease-fire with Karen rebels and agreed to negotiate with other ethnic rebel groups.
Those steps, as well as the by-elections last month where the NLD won nearly every seat it contested, have been applauded by the United States, European Union and other governments. They have responded by easing sanctions on Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
Suu Kyi’s first speaking engagement in Europe next month is an address at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, organized by the International Labor Organization on June 14.
Then on June 16, she will deliver her long delayed Nobel acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway.
After that, she will travel to Britain, the former colonial ruler of Myanmar and the country where Suu Kyi received her university education.
While there, she will address both houses of the British parliament on June 21, a rare honor for foreign dignitaries.
The relatively successful elections and Suu Kyi’s freedom to travel contrast starkly with the situation in the country at the start of the 1990s.
Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide victory in 1990, the previous time Myanmar had held multiparty elections. But the military junta ignored the results and kept her under house arrest.
Myanmar’s economy stagnated and its people lived under repressive rule until the military began to allow the fledgling reforms of the past two years.
The progress the country has experienced recently in nonetheless qualified by ongoing violence between government forces and some ethnic rebels, reports of voting irregularities in the by-elections last month and the military-backed ruling group’s overwhelming control of parliament.
The U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, noted ahead of a visit to the country last month that Myanmar’s “fresh start is still fragile.”