Flowers, applause as Suu Kyi kicks off epic Europe tour

Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was given a prolonged and emotional standing ovation on Thursday after delivering her maiden address to the ILO on her first European tour after 24 years.

Clad in traditional Myanmar dress with a green scarf, 66-year-old Suu Kyi was greeted with flowers and applause at the UN’s Geneva office, on her first tour of Europe since 1988.

During the tour, she is due to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, and later travel to Britain, Ireland and France.

Looking embarrassed at the prolonged ovation after her address to the International Labour Conference of the ILO  at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Suu Kyi went up to the mike again to say: “I don’t understand why people say I am full of courage. I am terribly nervous.”

Curbs go

On Wednesday, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) decided to lift restrictions imposed on Myanmar since 1999, and readmitted the country into its fold.

Myanmar has not been invited to ILO meetings or activities on various labour matters since then.

Suu Kyi welcomed Myanmar’s readmission to ILO and favoured increased ILO presence in her country.

During her address to the conference, she focussed on youth employment in her country, and looked forward to responsible foreign investment.

Focussing on what she called “responsible democracy and friendly investment”, Suu Kyi said she favoured a reconciliatory rather than a retributive approach towards the military rule in the country, as espoused by Bishop Desmond Tutu.

On the recent violence in her country, Suu Kyi later told reporters that she was concerned over the situation.

The most important lesson to be learned is the rule of law, which was essential to end conflict in her country, she said.

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