Suu Kyi arrives in Europe to accept Nobel, other honors

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits the Mae La refugee camp June 2 in Tak province, Thailand.

Story highlights

  • Aung San Suu Kyi addresses International Labor Organization in Geneva on Thursday
  • She to deliver Nobel lecture Saturday, 21 years after winning Nobel Peace Prize
  • Amnesty International to co-host concert with Dublin mayor, honor her with highest award
  • She will address British lawmakers at Westminster, be hosted by French president

Aung San Suu Kyi left Myanmar on Wednesday, arriving late at night in Geneva, Switzerland, the first stop in a 16-day European trip that is to include her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991.

"She was very happy and had a smile across her face," said airport spokesman Bertrand Staempski.

The pro-democracy campaigner, who was recently elected to Myanmar's parliament, then got into a cab, he said.

During her trip, she is to address both houses of the British Parliament, be the guest of honor at a concert in Dublin, Ireland, and celebrate her 67th birthday with family.

It all kicks off Thursday when she is to address the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The organization hopes to eliminate forced labor by the end of 2015 and facilitate workers' organizations, as Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- continues with reforms.

It is Suu Kyi's second trip abroad since she returned to Myanmar in 1988 to care for her dying mother. A military coup that September put Gen. Saw Maung in power, sparking anti-government demonstrations and a crackdown that left hundreds dead. Suu Kyi -- whose husband, Michael Aris, remained in England -- became a leading activist and co-founder of an opposition group, the National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest for the first time the following July on charges of trying to divide the military. She spent much of the next two decades confined to her home by the ruling junta.

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When her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide vote, the military rulers -- in power since 1962 -- refused to let the National League for Democracy serve, nullifying the results. Suu Kyi remained under house arrest.

Suu Kyi won the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1991 and then the Nobel Peace Prize, which cited her "nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights." But she remained in detention.

In accepting the prize on his mother's behalf, Alexander Aris said, "I personally believe that, by her own dedication and personal sacrifice, she has come to be a worthy symbol through whom the plight of all the people of Burma may be recognized."

On Saturday, about 21 years later, Suu Kyi is expected to finally deliver her Nobel lecture at the Oslo City Hall in Norway.

Cities that will host her have prepared.

In Dublin, a giant banner hangs from Liberty Hall ahead of her scheduled Monday arrival. There, she will be the special guest at a concert, "Electric Burma," organized by Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey, featuring a range of entertainers and personalities, including Bono, Vanessa Redgrave, Bob Geldof, Angelique Kidjo, Riverdance and former Tiananmen Square student activist Wu'er Kaixi.

Amnesty International, which has campaigned for her and other political prisoners in Myanmar during the last two decades, will award Suu Kyi its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, whose past recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Mary Robinson.

Bono, who has long dedicated the song "Walk On" to Suu Kyi at U2 concerts to highlight Myanmar and Suu Kyi's detention, will present the award. Tickets for the event sold out in 20 minutes.

After the concert, Dublin Mayor Andrew Montague and Amnesty will co-host another event, where Suu Kyi, who received the Freedom of Dublin City 12 years ago while under house arrest, will sign the Roll of Honorary Freedom and address the crowd.

From Ireland, she plans to travel to Britain -- where she spent time as a student -- to celebrate her birthday Tuesday, before she addresses lawmakers at Westminster Hall in London on June 21, an honor usually reserved for heads of state.

Suu Kyi's trip is to end in Paris, where she will be a guest of French President Francois Hollande from June 26 to 29 in honor of her "fight for democracy and the rights of man and to reaffirm France's will to support the political transition in Myanmar," according to the Elysee Palace.

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