Suu Kyi to visit Norway in first foreign trip

After years of house arrest, Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi plans to make a first trip abroad to Oslo in June to accept in person the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize she won for her peaceful struggle.

Suu Kyi to visit Norway in first foreign trip
Photo: Joon Grane Hetland/Scanpix

"She will give her Nobel lecture at Oslo City Hall," where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held each year, the Nobel Institute's events manager Sigrid Langebrekke told AFP on Wednesday after Norway's foreign ministry announced the visit for which an exact date has yet to be set.

Burma officials said on Wednesday the democracy activist, who has spent much of the past 22 years locked up by the junta under house arrest, had applied for a passport to travel but that it had not yet been granted.

Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights", according to the citation, but she was never able to travel to Oslo to accept the award in person.

She has long said she would try to make her first trip abroad to Norway to express her appreciation for its support.

Her now-deceased husband, Michael Aris, and her two sons accepted the Nobel medal, diploma and prize money on her behalf at the official ceremony held at Oslo City Hall in 1991.

But she was never able to give her official Nobel lecture. Her son Alexander made an acceptance speech on her behalf.

Langebrekke said the Nobel Institute was also hoping to arrange a traditional banquet for her, "but we don't have all the details of her visit yet."

Foreign ministry spokesman Svein Michelsen told AFP that Suu Kyi had confirmed her visit to Oslo to Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on Sunday.

"The foreign minister and Aung San Suu Kyi spoke on the phone Sunday and discussed her visit to Oslo in June," he said.

"It will be" the opposition leader's first trip outside Burma since 1988, he said.

Burma's military seized power in 1962, ushering in almost half a century of repressive junta rule and isolation from the West.

Also known as Myanmar, the country has surprised observers with a series of reforms in the past year, and historic by-elections on April 1st saw Suu Kyi win her seat in parliament, which she is expected to take up on April 23rd.

Norway announced on Sunday that it had lifted economic sanctions against Burma following the recent reforms.

"It is time to lift the sanctions," Gahr Støre announced in a statement.

"Recent developments in Myanmar demonstrate that the authorities are serious about reforms and that should be welcomed. What Myanmar needs now is contact with the rest of the world, economic development and international aid," he said.

A weapons embargo remains in place, he added.

Gahr Støre had reiterated his invitation to Suu Kyi to visit the country when he called her on Sunday to inform her of Norway's decision on the sanctions.

"She confirmed that Norway was the first country she wanted to visit," Støre told news agency NTB on Sunday.

During the rare periods Suu Kyi has not been held under house arrest, she has not dared travel abroad for fear of not being allowed to re-enter Burma.

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Telenor ‘ready’ for Myanmar challenges

The head of Telenor kept relatively mum about developments in Myanmar, where the Norwegian telecom company has been awarded a licence that will move forward after law reform in the Asian country.

Telenor 'ready' for Myanmar challenges
Myanmar. File photo: eGuide Travels/Flikr

The company has increased its consumer base in Asia, with five million news subscribers in the second quarter bumping profits after what CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas called a "slow start" to the year.

Thai consumers make up the bulwark of the increase, but Telenor now has its sights set on neighbouring Myanmar, where Telenor and Ooredoo were awarded the country's national mobile telephone licences on June 27th this year. But, as Norwegian media has noted, the authoritarian system in Myanmar is considered one of the world's most corrupt, posing potential operational challenges that Baksaas refused to comment on when he met the press on Tuesday.

"First and foremost we're waiting for the telecom regulations that will determine the regulatory framework we will be working within," Baksaas told the NTB news agency.

While the law reform is in the hands of the Myanmar parliament, a population of 60 million without access to modern telecoms awaits the Norwegians' problem-solving skills.

"I know that many have been worried, but we'll put our experience to use to solve what other people call concerns," Baksaas concluded.