BBC News

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi to visit Europe

image captionAung San Suu Ky had previously refused to leave Burma for fear that she would not be allowed back in

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is planning to travel abroad for the first time in 24 years, officials say.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said she was expected to visit Norway in June.

A spokesman from Aung San Suu Kyi's party also told the BBC that she would visit the UK - but this has yet not been confirmed by London.

The Nobel laureate spent years under house arrest while Burma was ruled by a military junta.

She has previously refused to leave Burma for fear that she would not be allowed to return.

The exact dates of her travel - which would be her first outside Burma since 1988 - have not been confirmed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron invited Aung San Suu Kyi to visit when he met her last week in Burma, where a new civilian government is undertaking a process of reform that has been welcomed by the international community.

Reports from Burma say Aung San Suu Kyi is yet to receive a passport she has requested ahead of the planned trips.

Aung San Suu Kyi's willingness to travel abroad shows her growing confidence in the reform process and Burma's President Thein Sein, the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Thailand reports.

The choice of Norway as the first country to visit is a natural one, as Ms Suu Kyi still has to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded back in 1991, our correspondent adds.

Personal cost

Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma's independence hero General Aung San, studied in the UK at Oxford University and met her husband, academic Michael Aris, there.

After stints of living in Japan and Bhutan, she settled in the UK to raise their two children. Then in 1988 she travelled back to Rangoon to look after her ill mother.

It was then amid the mass 1988 uprising that she emerged as Burma's pro-democracy leader.

She was placed under house arrest and went on to spend most of the following two decades in some form of detention. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power.

Her previous refusal to leave Burma came at huge personal cost to her family, our correspondent says.

She missed seeing her two sons turn into men, and - in 1999 with her British husband dying of cancer - turned down an offer by Burma's junta to see him for a last time.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010, shortly after elections that saw a transition from military to civilian rule.

Since then the military-backed civilian government has embarked on a process of reform that has seen hundreds of political prisoners freed.

The NLD - which boycotted the 2010 polls because of election laws it said were unfair - has now rejoined the political process.

Earlier this month, Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in a by-election which saw her party win 43 out of the 45 seats it contested.

Western nations have eased some sanctions in response to the reform process and promised further movement if it continues.