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Myanmar Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, talks to supporters during an opening ceremony of a branch office of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party on Monday, May 7, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi given first passport in 24 years
Opposition leader » Under house arrest for 15 of the 22 years of military rule.
First Published May 08 2012 12:16 pm • Last Updated May 08 2012 12:20 pm

Yangon, Myanmar • Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received her first passport in 24 years on Tuesday ahead of a planned trip to Norway and Britain.

An aide to Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, said the passport was received from the Home Ministry.

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Suu Kyi applied for the passport following recent political reforms that culminated in her election to parliament last month. Last year, a long-ruling military junta handed over power to an elected, nominally civilian government. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won 43 seats in the April by-elections, will lead the small opposition bloc.

The passport is valid for three years. She has not had a passport since she returned to Myanmar in 1988 to take care of her ailing mother, and was required by law then to hand it in.

After becoming leader of the country’s pro-democracy movement, she was put under house arrest for 15 of the following 22 years of military rule. Her confinement kept her from attending the ceremony in Norway at which she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. She plans to visit the country in June.

During intermittent periods of freedom, Suu Kyi declined opportunities to go abroad for fear she would not be allowed to re-enter Myanmar, and so was unable to visit her British husband, Oxford don Michael Aris, before his death from cancer in 1999. They last saw each other in 1995, after which the junta denied Aris a visa.

Since her release in November 2010 from her last term of house arrest, Suu Kyi had been invited to visit by several foreign governments. Recently, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited her to the U.N. headquarters in New York where she once worked.

During a brief visit to Myanmar in April, British Prime Minister David Cameron also invited Suu Kyi to visit the United Kingdom, saying it would be a sign of progress if she were able to leave Myanmar and then return to carry out her duties as a lawmaker.

Cameron publicly suggested she visit in June to see her "beloved Oxford," where she attended university in the 1970s and raised her two children.

Suu Kyi replied that "two years ago I would have said thank you for the invitation, but sorry. But now I am able to say perhaps, and that’s great progress."


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