Suu Kyi arrives in Europe to accept Nobel, other honors

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits the Mae La refugee camp June 2 in Tak province, Thailand.

Story highlights

  • Aung San Suu Kyi addresses International Labor Organization in Geneva on Thursday
  • She to deliver Nobel lecture Saturday, 21 years after winning Nobel Peace Prize
  • Amnesty International to co-host concert with Dublin mayor, honor her with highest award
  • She will address British lawmakers at Westminster, be hosted by French president

Aung San Suu Kyi left Myanmar on Wednesday, arriving late at night in Geneva, Switzerland, the first stop in a 16-day European trip that is to include her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991.

"She was very happy and had a smile across her face," said airport spokesman Bertrand Staempski.

The pro-democracy campaigner, who was recently elected to Myanmar's parliament, then got into a cab, he said.

During her trip, she is to address both houses of the British Parliament, be the guest of honor at a concert in Dublin, Ireland, and celebrate her 67th birthday with family.

It all kicks off Thursday when she is to address the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The organization hopes to eliminate forced labor by the end of 2015 and facilitate workers' organizations, as Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- continues with reforms.

It is Suu Kyi's second trip abroad since she returned to Myanmar in 1988 to care for her dying mother. A military coup that September put Gen. Saw Maung in power, sparking anti-government demonstrations and a crackdown that left hundreds dead. Suu Kyi -- whose husband, Michael Aris, remained in England -- became a leading activist and co-founder of an opposition group, the National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest for the first time the following July on charges of trying to divide the military. She spent much of the next two decades confined to her home by the ruling junta.

Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi
Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi


    Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi


Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi 02:19
Suu Kyi asks people to invest in Myanmar
Suu Kyi asks people to invest in Myanmar


    Suu Kyi asks people to invest in Myanmar


Suu Kyi asks people to invest in Myanmar 01:00

When her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide vote, the military rulers -- in power since 1962 -- refused to let the National League for Democracy serve, nullifying the results. Suu Kyi remained under house arrest.

Suu Kyi won the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1991 and then the Nobel Peace Prize, which cited her "nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights." But she remained in detention.

In accepting the prize on his mother's behalf, Alexander Aris said, "I personally believe that, by her own dedication and personal sacrifice, she has come to be a worthy symbol through whom the plight of all the people of Burma may be recognized."

On Saturday, about 21 years later, Suu Kyi is expected to finally deliver her Nobel lecture at the Oslo City Hall in Norway.

Cities that will host her have prepared.

In Dublin, a giant banner hangs from Liberty Hall ahead of her scheduled Monday arrival. There, she will be the special guest at a concert, "Electric Burma," organized by Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey, featuring a range of entertainers and personalities, including Bono, Vanessa Redgrave, Bob Geldof, Angelique Kidjo, Riverdance and former Tiananmen Square student activist Wu'er Kaixi.

Amnesty International, which has campaigned for her and other political prisoners in Myanmar during the last two decades, will award Suu Kyi its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, whose past recipients have included Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Mary Robinson.

Bono, who has long dedicated the song "Walk On" to Suu Kyi at U2 concerts to highlight Myanmar and Suu Kyi's detention, will present the award. Tickets for the event sold out in 20 minutes.

After the concert, Dublin Mayor Andrew Montague and Amnesty will co-host another event, where Suu Kyi, who received the Freedom of Dublin City 12 years ago while under house arrest, will sign the Roll of Honorary Freedom and address the crowd.

From Ireland, she plans to travel to Britain -- where she spent time as a student -- to celebrate her birthday Tuesday, before she addresses lawmakers at Westminster Hall in London on June 21, an honor usually reserved for heads of state.

Suu Kyi's trip is to end in Paris, where she will be a guest of French President Francois Hollande from June 26 to 29 in honor of her "fight for democracy and the rights of man and to reaffirm France's will to support the political transition in Myanmar," according to the Elysee Palace.

      Inside Myanmar

    • Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the last 20 years under house arrest.

      The peaceful freedom fighter

      Aung San Suu Kyi's rise to Myanmar's parliament caps a remarkable turn around for the pro-democracy campaigner, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.
    • Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she attend the 21st World Economic Forum on East Asia in bangkok on June 1, 2012.

      No time for 'reckless optimism'

      Aung Sun Suu Kyi tells WEF delegates in Thailand some healthy skepticism is needed when it comes to the country's recent reforms.
    • Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cheer outside the Myanmar migrant workers community center following her visit in Samut Sakhon on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 30, 2012.

      Burmese migrants mob Suu Kyi

      By the time we arrived, a couple of hours before Suu Kyi was due, the streets were already thick with thousands of Burmese waiting to see her.
    • After declaring victory, Aung San Suu Kyi told her cheering supporters that it wasn't her victory, but their own.

      New chapter for thawing Myanmar

      Two years ago, Myanmar's leaders were doing all they could to silence Aung San Suu Kyi. Now they're poised to welcome her into parliament.
    • A Buddhist monk speaks to the crowd of supporters as they gather in downtown Yangon, 25 September 2007.

      Timeline: Key events in Myanmar

      From a bloodless coup in 1962 to Aung San Suu Kyi's win in 2012 elections, explore CNN's timeline of recent events in Myanmar.
    • pkg rivers myanmar game changer_00000429

      British PM's historic visit

      British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, where he met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
    • Supporters cheer at a rally organized by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on March 28 in Yuzana.

      Vote a test of Myanmar's openness

      If Sunday's by-election in Myanmar is deemed to be free and fair, it will cap off a startling about-turn by the former military men currently running the country.
    • hancocks myanmar monks view_00003904

      A monk's view of changes

      Five years after a brutal crackdown in Myanmar, CNN's Paula Hancocks asks monks if they trust the current changes.
    • myanmar china border

      China, Myanmar still close

      While Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar might well unnerve China, analysts believe the relationship between the two Asian neighbors remains strong.