Long jailed, recently elected, Aung San Suu Kyi now plans to leave Myanmar for the first time in 24 years. The trip to Norway and Britain provides a chance for the former political prisoner to collect the Nobel Peace Prize she won decades ago while under house arrest.
Suu Kyi had refused to leave Myanmar, also known as Burma, while it was under strict military rule, fearing she would be blocked from returning. Her refusal to leave had often separated her from her husband and two children.
But the news that she would travel to Europe in June, reported by several news agencies Wednesday, was widely regarded as a sign of growing confidence in the new government. Suu Kyi first hinted at the idea when British Prime Minister David Cameron invited her to visit his country last week.
“Two years ago I would have said thank you for the invitation, but sorry. But now I am able to say perhaps, and that's great progress,” Suu Kyi was quoted as saying Friday by the Associated Press.
Though exact dates have not yet been set, National League for Democracy party spokesman Nyan Win told the Guardian newspaper that Suu Kyi will first visit Norway for meetings in Oslo, then head to Britain, where she will stop by Oxford, where she attended university in the 1970s.
Myanmar has embarked on reforms under its new military government, releasing hundreds of political prisoners. The United States recently announced it will begin easing sanctions on the country, but stressed that Myanmar needs to continue the change, including ending abuses against ethnic minorities.
Suu Kyi won her seat as part of a minority bloc in parliament; the military and its allies still hold more than 80% of the seats. Her campaign and victory were nonetheless seen as an important symbol of change, putting the opposition leader in office for the first time.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Myanmar democracy leader and newly elected parliament member Aung San Suu Kyi watches a New Year show in Kawhmu township in Yangon on Tuesday. Credit: Nyein Chan Naing / European Pressphoto Agency