LONDON: Myanmar democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi is to visit the U.K. and address Parliament in the week of June 18, the first time she has been back to the country since 1988.
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, became a lawmaker in her country this month, a sign that it is opening up after decades of dictatorship. Her decision to travel is another such sign. For years she refused, even in 1999 when her husband, Michael, was dying in England, fearing that if she left Myanmar she wouldn’t be allowed to return.
Prime Minister David Cameron visited Suu Kyi in Myanmar last month. At the Group of Eight summit at Camp David yesterday, Cameron proposed that aid to the country should be linked to democratic development, and that a commission should establish guidelines for investing there, according to his office.
Myanmar’s political opening over the past year has put the nation back on the map for investors. The U.S. said this month it will lift economic and financial restrictions on certain sectors of Myanmar’s economy, Japan forgave about US$3.7 billion of debt and the European Union suspended sanctions.
The invitation to address both houses of Parliament is an honor that was recently accorded Barack Obama during his visit to London last year.
Suu Kyi, who had lived in Oxford, England, with her husband and two sons, returned to Myanmar in 1988 when her mother fell ill. She became involved in uprisings against the authorities, and was placed under house arrest the following year.
In 1990, the military rejected an election victory by Suu Kyi’s party in which it won about 80% of seats for a committee to draft a new constitution. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner known in Myanmar simply as “The Lady,” was detained during both that vote and the 2010 elections.
Since taking office in March 2011, President Thein Sein has freed political prisoners, sought peace deals with ethnic armies, dismantled a fixed exchange rate that distorted government revenue and halted the construction of a US$3.6 billion Chinese-backed hydropower project in response to criticism China was exploiting Burmese resources. He also met with Suu Kyi and convinced her party to rejoin the political process after boycotting 2010 elections.
Her party is pushing to change the current constitution, which guarantees the military a quarter of parliamentary seats. (Bloomberg/aph)