Geneva (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In a speech to representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the European tour of Aung San Suu Kyi officially opens today. In the coming days, the Burmese democratic opposition leader will also visit Norway, France, Ireland and England, her adopted homeland, the birthplace of her husband Michael Aris and home of her two sons Alexander and Kim. The "Lady" arrived yesterday afternoon in Switzerland, on the first leg of a journey that, after 24 years, brings her back to Europe where she lived and studied for a long time, before returning to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother. She then spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest for her fight for democracy and human rights in Myanmar; finally released in November of 2010,she was appointed a member of Parliament in April 2012 having won a seat in the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi's trip to Europe represents a milestone in the process of change in Burma, ferried by the president Thein Sein - a former army general - from a dictatorship isolated from the rest of the world, to a nation that looks to international markets and represents a "new economic frontier." In Norway, the Democratic leader held a formal acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, won in 1991 in absentia as she was under house arrest in Yangon.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Myanmar tension continues in Rakhine State, scene of sectarian clashes between Burmese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, a minority often the victim of persecution and abuse. Following the wave of violence that has caused over 20 deaths, the president declared a state of emergency and deployed police officers and the army (see AsiaNews 13/06/As Dhaka turns away a thousand Burmese Rohingya, Sittwe is patrolled by soldiers). The unresolved conflicts with ethnic minorities accounted for the main critical element in the democratization process launched by the new leadership of the country after decades of repression and crackdowns on dissent in the blood.
This morning before the representatives of the ILO, the UN agency that verifies working conditions in various countries, the Nobel Peace Prize will speak of forced labor - that Myanmar has pledged to eliminate by 2015 - and free association. An intervention called "exceptional" by Kari Tapiola, ILO Director-General's Special Adviser.
Last night, on her arrival in Geneva, addressing the press Aung San Suu Kyi did not hide her enthusiasm for the European tour. "It will be a memorable trip for me," said the "Lady", who seems increasingly willing to play a leading role in the political scene within the Myanmar and the international community.