Myanmar Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left for an 18-day tour of the United States, which comes after a gap of two decades.
She flew out of Yangon International Airport on Sunday night accompanied by the new U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, reports said.
Suu Kyi will be honored in Washington, and presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress, among other awards.
She is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and House and Senate leaders during her four-day stay in Washington.
From the U.S. capital, Suu Kyi will go to New York to attend a high-level meeting organized by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She will meet with various Burmese groups in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She will address the University of Louisville, Kentucky, as well as human rights activists.
Suu Kyi's other stopovers include San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Reports say that while in America, the democracy icon is likely to be asked about the recent ethnic violence in her country. The violence in Rakhine state - between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims - killed dozens of people and destroyed hundreds of homes since June. The violence led to the government declaring a state of emergency in the state.
The West's relations with Myanmar marked a drastic improvement since the country's democratically-elected government implemented a set of reforms and displayed a positive approach toward the Opposition.
The military-backed civilian government in the South-east Asian country has been making efforts to seek peace with ethnic groups; permitting trade union activity, establishing freedom of assembly and loosening censorship of the media; as well as the creation of a Human Rights Commission.
Clinton had called on Suu Kyi in May this year to review developments in Myanmar and to discuss the U.S. decision to lift decades-old ban imposed on American investment there.
Clinton told Suu Kyi that the United States was keeping its sanctions authorities in place on Myanmar "as an insurance policy."
They agreed that the important progress of the past several months remains fragile and that the international community needs to help protect against backsliding.
It is expected that Suu Kyi's appraisal of the democratic government in Myanmar will be crucial in the Obama administration's policy on easing its remaining sanctions on it.
Suu Kyi, who had been a political prisoner for most of the past 20 years, was released in November 2010. The U.S. visit is another step in her new role as a globe-trotting stateswoman, after an extensive European tour and travel to Thailand this year.
The Nobel laureate was accorded honors usually given to heads of state during her visit of five nations in Europe, which included her address of the International Labor Conference at the United Nations in Geneva.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has extended her an invitation to visit the U.N. headquarters in New York.
by RTT Staff Writer
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