Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to deliver a speech at Sandhurst military academy and discuss peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland during a five-day visit to the UK later this month.
Ms Suu Kyi will also meet senior political figures in London when she arrives in the UK on 22 October, following stops in Luxembourg, Belgium and France, where she is to meet with officials at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. She is also expected to visit Italy.
“At her request, Aung Sang Suu Kyi will visit Northern Ireland to learn about the peace process, and spend a day at Sandhurst, where she will deliver a speech and see the cadets in training,” said a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This will be Ms Suu Kyi’s second visit to the UK. She first visited last summer on what was her first visit to Europe since being released from house arrest at the end of 2010. That visit followed a personal invitation from David Cameron when he went to Burma and met her in Rangoon.
Much attention will be on her visit to Northern Ireland. The FCO spokesman said there was no information yet available on who she would meet during her trip there.
Her visit to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where she is due to spend a day watching cadets train, will likely trigger some controversy. Earlier this year, Britain announced it was to restart military ties with Burma after a gap of many decades and teach human rights and accountability to the notorious Burmese armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw.
“Reforming the Burmese military and pursuing a sustainable peace process will be key to Burma’s stability and prosperity,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in July.
But some observers are sceptical: “If the British government is using Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, to try to deflect criticism of its plan to train Burmese army soldiers, or criticism of Sandhurst because it trains soldiers from dictatorships, it’s very unprincipled,” said Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK
A report on Burma’s Eleven website said Ms Suu Kyi also plans to attend seminars and visit four cities in Italy, which have continued to give support to Burma’s democracy movement.
She will be accompanied by MP Naing Linn, a member of her National League for Democracy’s central executive committee, her personal assistant Dr Tin Mar Aung, and U Soe Win.
The report said NLD spokesperson Phyo Zayar Thaw said he did not know whether Ms Suu Kyi had plans to meet with her two sons when she visits Europe.
During her first visit to Europe in June last year, she visited Norway, the UK, Switzerland, France, and Ireland. In September this year, she visited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.