Yangon: Aung San Suu Kyi takes the latest stride in her journey from an imprisoned activist to a politician on the world stage when she visits Europe this week to give a Nobel speech two decades in the making.
The Myanmar democracy icon, who was under house arrest when she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, will leave on Wednesday for Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Britain and France on only her second overseas foray in 24 years.
For more than two decades Suu Kyi did not dare leave Myanmar -- even to see her sons or British husband before his death from cancer in 1999 -- fearing the generals who ruled the country would not let her return.
As well as the Nobel speech, she will speak at an International Labour Organisation conference, address Britain's parliament and receive an Amnesty International human rights award in Dublin from rock star Bono.
Her visit will mark a new milestone in the political changes that have swept through the country formerly known as Burma since decades of outright military rule ended last year, bringing to power a new quasi-civilian government.
President Thein Sein is credited for a series of dramatic changes including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing peace pacts with armed rebel groups and welcoming Suu Kyi's party back into mainstream politics.
The former general now faces a major challenge at home from a wave of sectarian violence in western Rakhine state, where a state of emergency has been imposed in response to violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero General Aung San, for her part has called for "sympathy" with minorities in the wake of the unrest.
In April the veteran activist won her first ever seat in parliament, prompting Western nations to start rolling back sanctions.
Suu Kyi will deliver a hugely symbolic lecture on June 16 in Oslo to accept the Nobel Prize, which thrust her onto the global stage and spurred decades of support for her party's democratic struggle against authoritarian rule.
But the opposition leader may also inject a note of caution: on her first overseas trip in more than two decades, Suu Kyi this month warned world business leaders at a meeting in Bangkok against "reckless optimism" over the democratic reforms.


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