Suu Kyi pleads for workers' rights at UN in Geneva

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke about her association with the International Labour Organisation

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for support for democracy in Burma, on her first visit to Europe since 1988.

Addressing the International Labour Organization in Geneva, she also warned against economic development which ignored the rights of workers.

Later, she had to cut short a news conference in Bern after falling ill, apparently from exhaustion.

She was answering questions with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

Minutes earlier, Mr Burkhalter had announced an end to Swiss sanctions on Burma, with the exception of an embargo on military weapons.

She had already complained of exhaustion after her speech to the ILO in Geneva.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of the past 24 years under house arrest in Burma. She was freed in late 2010.

She won a seat in Burma's parliament in a by-election two months ago.

In her speech, Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed steps by the international community to reach out to her country, long isolated because of its military dictatorship.

"The international community is trying very hard to bring my country into it and it's up to our country to respond the right way."

She chose to go first to the ILO because of its long campaign against forced labour in Burma - a campaign which kept the oppressive regime in the spotlight during her long years of house arrest, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Aung San Suu Kyi is well aware her country is now open for business - foreign investors are interested in this new Asian economy, says our correspondent.

But the pro-democracy leader insisted Burma needed "democracy-friendly development growth", and she called for profits to be shared with the people, especially the young, who needed the support of the international community to build a better future.

"I would like to call for aid and investment that will strengthen the democratisation process by promoting social and economic progress that is beneficial to political reform," Ms Suu Kyi said.

Political reform

The two-week-long trip - seen as another milestone for Burma's political progress - will see her visit the UK, Switzerland, Ireland, France and Norway, where she will accept her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Aung San Suu Kyi's European tour

  • 14 June: Addresses UN's International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland
  • 15-18 June: Visits Norway where she will collect her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo
  • 18 June: Arrives in Dublin, Ireland, and attends a concert in her honour. Later travels to the UK
  • 18-25 June: Receives honorary doctorate in civil law by Oxford University and addresses both Houses of Parliament in London
  • 25 June: Arrives in Paris

It is her second recent overseas trip, after visiting Thailand in May.

Her decision to travel is seen as a sign of confidence in the government of President Thein Sein, who has pursued a course of reform since coming to power last year, in Burma's first elections in 20 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burmese independence leader Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947.

She became the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement when, after living abroad for many years, she returned to Burma in 1988, initially to look after her sick mother.

After that, she did not leave the country until recently, fearing that the country's then military rulers would not allow her to return to Burma.

The decision meant that she was unable to receive in person her Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991, or be with her British husband, Michael Aris, when he died in 1999.

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