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Burma’s Democracy Leader Headed to Thailand on Historic Visit

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Burma’s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is leaving the country for the first time in 24 years. She is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok Tuesday evening and is expected to visit migrant workers and refugees from Burma and speak at an international economic forum.

First trip in 24 years

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand marks the first time she has been outside Burma since 1988.

Fifteen of the years since were spent under house arrest for opposing Burma’s military rulers.

She was finally freed after a 2010 election put reformist President Thein Sein in office.

On the historic visit Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to meet with Burmese migrant workers, refugees, and activists outside Bangkok.

She will also speak at the first World Economic Forum on East Asia held in Bangkok.

“We have not yet received any official request, either through her directly or through the World Economic Forum, to arrange any activities for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," said Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for Thailand’s ministry of foreign affairs. "The only activity we know outside of the World Economic Forum is that she requested a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, which we are coordinating.”

Suu Kyi - human rights

The spokesman says Aung San Suu Kyi wants to discuss labor issues with the Thai Deputy Prime Minister.

There are thousands of Burmese migrant laborers in Thailand and they are often taken advantage of by crooked employers.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s defiance of military rule made her an iconic symbol of peaceful protest and sacrifice against tyranny.

During the brief times she was released from house arrest in Burma she refused to leave the country, even as her husband lay dying from cancer, for fear she would not be allowed back in.

Stengthening ties with India

Ahead of her trip to Bangkok Tuesday Aung San Suu Kyi met in Rangoon with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He called her an inspiration for millions around the world.

“In the process of national reconciliation, which has been launched by President Thein Sein, Madam Suu Kyi will play a defining role. And, I convey to her our very best wishes on the success of the noble endeavor in which she and her colleagues are engaged,” he said.

The Indian Prime Minister invited Aung San Suu Kyi to India to deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture.

The Nobel Prize laureate said she was gratified with the invitation and hoped to take up the offer soon.

“I’m very happy at the prospect of closer ties with India because I think we have much to learn from one another and that we have much to contribute to peace and stability in this region because our goals, our democratic goals, work on the basis of peace and stability and these are what we shall aim towards,” she noted.

Future agenda

After her trip to Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to Europe.

She will visit Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and Britain.

In Oslo she will accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 while still under house arrest.

Article by Daniel Schearf, VOA News