Aung San Suu Kyi could visit Britain as early as June


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The Independent Online

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could visit Britain as early as June it emerged today, as officials in her party confirmed her first visit abroad in 24 years.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said Ms Suu Kyi was expected to visit the country that month to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded back in 1991.

Her spokesman said that she would visit the UK as part of the same tour but Foreign Office sources said later this had yet to be confirmed.

The 66-year-old has not left Burma since she returned from Britain to visit her ailing mother in 1988 because of fears she would not be allowed back in.

It is understood she is yet to receive a passport she has requested ahead of the planned trips but is confident that this will be granted.

She is also believed to have requested formal assurances that she will be allowed back into the country ahead of any visit.

Last week, during a brief visit to country, Mr Cameron invited Ms Suu Kyi to visit, saying it would be a sign of progress if she were able to leave and then return to carry out her duties as an MP.

She replied that “two years ago I would have said thank you for the invitation, but sorry. But now I am able to say perhaps, and that's great progress.”

Her spokesman said the trip would include a trip to Oxford, where she attended university in the 1970s and raised her two children.

Ms Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma's independence hero General Aung San, studied in Oxford where she met her husband, the academic Michael Aris.

After stints of living in Japan and Bhutan, she settled in the UK to raise their two children. Then in 1988 she travelled back to Rangoon to look after her ill mother.

It was then amid the mass 1988 uprising that she emerged as Burma's pro-democracy leader.

She was placed under house arrest and went on to spend most of the following two decades in some form of detention. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power.

Her previous refusal to leave Burma meant she was unable to be with her children as they grew up and - in 1999 where her husband was dying of cancer - turned down an offer by Burma's junta to see him for a last time.

She was released from house arrest in November 2010, shortly after elections that saw a transition from military to civilian rule.

Since then the military-backed civilian government has embarked on a process of reform. Earlier this month, Ms Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in a by-election which saw her party win 43 out of the 45 seats it contested.

Foreign Office sources said they still hoped Ms Suu Kyi would visit Britain but that the British embassy in the country did not believe the situation had materially changed from the time of Mr Cameron’s visit.

It also emerged today that the UK has won support from most EU countries for the lifting of sanctions against Burma.

In the Commons, he said: “We are pushing across Europe for the suspension of sanctions, excluding the arms embargo that should stay, rather than the lifting of sanctions.

“We have now got support for that position from most of the other leading European countries and I hope we can deliver it. That would be the right thing in terms of demonstrating to the regime that we want to back progress, and it would also back strongly what Aung San Suu Kyi has said is the right approach.”