Suu Kyi: we are family
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi called for foreign investment in Burma yesterday during the first speech of her landmark European tour.
The Burmese opposition leader asked delegates at the International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva to encourage their governments to invest in "democracy-friendly development" in her country.
In the 20-minute address, Suu Kyi asked for help for unemployed and uneducated youth in particular.
"It's not so much joblessness as hopelessness that affects our future," she said.
The veteran activist and newly elected member of parliament advocated coordinated social, political and economic policies "that will put our country once again on the map of the positive and the successful.
"Coming to this conference I have learned that we can all work together," she said. "I felt at home, I felt I had come back to meet members of my family. We are not only a family of nations but a family of people."
Suu Kyi invited members of the labour organisation to visit Burma.
It is her first visit to Europe since 1988, after years spent under house arrest and the fear that if she left her country, the junta whose rule she fought against for two decades would block her return.
Switzerland is the first stop on a more than two-week tour that will take her to Norway, Britain, France and Ireland and which will include a speech in Oslo for her 1991 Nobel peace prize.
It was Suu Kyi's second trip abroad in 24 years, following a recent journey to Thailand.
In 1988, she had had to leave her British husband, Oxford scholar Michael Aris, and their two sons to return to her homeland to tend to her ailing mother, independence hero Aung San.
Suu Kyi became involved in anti-military, pro-democracy protests that swept Burma that year and quickly became a leading figure.
She was awarded the Nobel prize in 1991.
Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest before being freed in November 2010 and allowed to enter mainstream politics by President Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011.
She joined parliament after winning a seat in the April 1 by-election.
Following her visit to Switzerland, she will travel to Oslo at the invitation of the Norwegian government to accept her Nobel prize in person, 21 years after winning the award.
On Monday, Suu Kyi will depart for Dublin to attend a concert by the rock band U2, whose singer Bono has long been an avid supporter of her cause.
Suu Kyi will celebrate her birthday in London the following day with her sons who live there. Her husband died in 1999 of prostate cancer while she was under house arrest.
She will travel to France on June 26 for a three-day visit at the invitation of the government.
Suu Kyi is scheduled to return to Burma in time to attend the opening session of parliament on July 4.