Monday, June 4, 2012

Suu Kyi home after ‘very satisfactory’ trip

Monday, 04 June 2012 13:02 Mizzima News

Aung San Suu Kyi strode through Yangon International Airport on Sunday waving to passengers, ending her six-day trip to neighboring Thailand and told waiting reporters her trip was “very successful.”

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, second from right, arrives back home at Yangon's international airport after her first trip abroad to Thailand. It was her first foreign trip in over two decades, because she was afraid she would not be allowed back into the country when it was ruled by the former military junta. Photo: AFP

“It was a very good visit,” she said, after she was greeted by high-level officials from her party. She will shortly embark on a longer trip to five European cities, taking advantage of her newly acquired freedom to travel outside her country.

Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand was a whirlwind tour and not without political consequences. While she brought international attention on the plight of Burmese migrant workers and refugees in Thailand, her trip also led to Burmese President Thein Sein’s cancellation of his own scheduled visit to the World Economic Forum, which Suu Kyi addressed. Observers said his government was piqued by the amount of media attention Suu Kyi received.

She used her first trip abroad to draw attention to the plight of her fellow Burmese abroad — visiting migrant communities where she heard stories of hardship and encouraged migrants to work to better their lot.

Suu Kyi stole the spotlight at the World Economic Forum, delivering her first speech before an international audience since 1988, when she visited Burma to see her ailing mother and became involved in the pro-democracy movement, which leadto her house arrest for 15 of the past 24 years.

During her speech before international investors and diplomats, she cautioned against what she called “reckless optimism” surrounding Burma’s reform process. She said she trusted President Thein Sein's commitment to reforms, but noted the military is still a force “to be reckoned with.”

It was unclear to what extent her trip rankled Thein Sein. Thein Sein had rescheduled his first official visit to Thailand for Monday and Tuesday, but then he abruptly canceled without offering a reason or a new date, a Thai Foreign Ministry said.

On Sunday, following Suu Kyi’s visit to the Mae La refugee camp in Mae Sot, Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported that many Burmese refugee spokesmen urged caution before sending Burmese refugees back to Burma, in spite of the changing political landscape.  They said conditions in the ethnic states, in spite of cease-fires, were still tenuous.

Khin Ohmar of the Burma Partnership said she wanted Suu Kyi to call on the European Union to provide funding to refugees and cross-border aid to internally displaced persons in Kachin State to ease their return in the future.

Refugees should not be repatriated until law and practical measures assured security for those people, she said.

The Mae Sot-based activist also called on the Burmese army to immediately stop military operations, and Thein Sein's government to engage in inclusive dialogue with ethnic groups.

Many minorities, including the Karen and the Shan, have reached peace agreements with the government, but the initial steps in the cease-fires were not fully implemented, most notably in the Kachin area.

Exiles in Bangkok told the Post that officials involved in peace negotiations have no real power, and the military holds on to its control, especially in resources-rich states such as Kachin.

Karen National Union General-Secretary Naw Zipporah Sein said she welcomed Suu Kyi's tour of the Mae La camp in order for her to better understand the urgent need for true peace and development in ethnic states.

“Reaching a stage of political settlement is far from reality, unless a guarantee for security and safety for the displaced can be arranged,” said the general-secretary, who last month met high Burmese officials and Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

In mid-June, Suu Kyi departs on the next leg of her international travels with a five-country tour to Europe that includes stops in Geneva, Dublin, London, Paris and Oslo, Norway, where she will formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.

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