Suu Kyi to Give First Foreign Talk in Geneva

By John Heilprin 22 May 2012

GENEVA—Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver her first speech outside the country before a UN labor conference in Geneva on June 14, the head of the UN labor office said on Tuesday.

Suu Kyi’s speech to the annual conference of the Geneva-based UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) will be a key element of her first trip abroad since 1988, when she returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother.

“This will be the first place where she will speak internationally after leaving Burma,” Juan Somavia, the ILO’s director-general, said on Tuesday.

After becoming leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for 15 of the following 22 years of military rule. Her confinement also prevented her from attending the ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

The ILO has long been a vocal critic of forced labor in Burma. The junta was shunned for its human rights abuses and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

But after a 2010 general election and Suu Kyi’s election to Parliament last month, the United States and other Western governments began to roll back years of hard-hitting restrictions against the Asian nation, which is officially known as Myanmar.

Suu Kyi also plans to visit Norway, where she will deliver her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize nearly 21 years after winning it. Her eldest son, Alexander Aris, had accepted the award on her behalf during the 1991 ceremony. Norway’s government said Suu Kyi will also meet Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during her visit.

The 66-year-old also is expected to visit Britain, where she got a college degree in philosophy and spent much of her married life raising two sons.

Suu Kyi received her first passport in 24 years earlier this month.