GENEVA – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will deliver her first speech outside the country since at least 1988 before a U.N. labor conference in Geneva on June 14, the head of the U.N. labor office said Tuesday.
Suu Kyi's speech to the annual conference of the Geneva-based U.N.'s International Labor Organization will be a key element of her first trip abroad since 1988, when she returned to Myanmar to care for her ailing mother.
"This will be the first place where she will speak internationally after leaving Myanmar," Juan Somavia, the ILO's director-general, said Tuesday.
After becoming leader of Myanmar'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.
Over the past couple of decades, Suu Kyi was only rarely allowed to receive visitors or to communicate with the outside world at her lakeside home in Yangon, the capital.
And while she was always free to leave Myanmar, she chose to stay partly out of fear she would be denied permission to re-enter and be forced to live in political exile.
The ILO has long been a vocal critic of forced labor in Myanmar. The junta was shunned for its human rights abuses and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government led by Suu Kyi after her victory in a 1990 general election.
But after a 2010 general election and Suu Kyi's election to parliament last month, the United States and other Western governments have begun to roll back years of hard-hitting restrictions against the Asian nation, which is also known as Burma.
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 peace prize on her behalf during the 1991 ceremony. Norway's government said Suu Kyi will also meet Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during her visit.
Suu Kyi will finally have the Nobel ceremony she missed in 1991 and also will speak to the Oslo forum on conflict mediation that is led by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said Tuesday.
"When I went to see her, I asked her at the press conference we had together about visible examples of change," Store said during an Associated Press interview. And she said, 'Just look behind you.' And there were these 50 journalists standing there, in her garden — it used to be sealed off."
Store said he believes Myanmar's reforms will continue. "A lot are asking if this is too good to be true," he said. "I basically think there is no turning back on this ... but this is the time when we need to engage."
Suu Kyi is also expected to visit Britain, where she got a college degree in philosophy and spent much of her married life raising two sons.
In 2010, she was able to see her youngest son, Kim Aris, after a decade-long separation when the junta finally gave him a visa to enter Myanmar and visit her.
She received her first passport in 24 years earlier this month.