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Aung San Suu Kyi leaves Burma for first time in 24 years to start world tour

BURMA opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left the country for the first time in 24 years.

Previously the pro-democracy campaigner was either under house arrest or too fearful that if she left Burma, the government would never let her return.

Now, in a sign of how much life there has changed, she is back to being a world traveller, catching an 85-minute flight to neighbouring Thailand.

With the installation of an elected government last year, and her party's own entrance into parliament this year, she can claim at least partial success for her long fight and feel a freedom to explore the world.

Ms Suu Kyi is to spend several days in Thailand, meeting poor migrant workers and war refugees from her homeland, as well as international movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

She will return to Burma briefly and head to Europe in mid-June, with stops including Oslo - to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she won 21 years ago.

In Dublin, she will share a stage with U2 frontman Bono at a concert in her honour, according to Irish media. In England, she has been given the rare honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament. France's foreign ministry says she also plans to stop in Paris.

The tour marks Ms Suu Kyi's latest step in a stunning trajectory from housewife to political prisoner to opposition leader in parliament, as Burma opens up to the outside world and sheds a half century of military rule. Meetings with world leaders are planned along the way as dignitaries line up to shake Ms Suu Kyi's hand.

The last time the 66-year-old Nobel laureate flew abroad was April 1988, when she travelled from London to Burma to nurse her dying mother. The English leg of Ms Suu Kyi's trip is bound to include some family time. She will celebrate her 67th birthday on June 19 while in England.

Ms Suu Kyi's aides have offered few details about her trip aside from the destinations, saying only that she will pack medicine for motion sickness. "She gets airsick and seasick very easily. She will have to take her pills to prevent airsickness," said Win Htein, of her National League for Democracy party.

PA Media