Myanmar’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi wraps up her triumphant tour of Europe in France on Thursday, after being lauded during her visits as a model of peaceful resistance to dictatorship.
The Nobel Peace laureate — who spent almost two decades under house arrest for her freedom struggle — has been cheered by crowds and leaders on her five-nation tour, her first visit to Europe in a quarter-century.
In France, she was treated with honours normally reserved for a head of state, dining at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday with President Francois Hollande, who pledged support for her country’s transition towards democracy.
Myanmar was for decades ruled by an iron-fisted junta, but a reformist government under ex-general President Thein Sein has freed political prisoners and allowed Suu Kyi’s party back into mainstream politics.
Suu Kyi, 67, has in the past two weeks visited Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Britain and now France, receiving rock star welcomes along the way.
The trip allowed her to finally give her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, and to thank groups and institutions from the Rafto Foundation and Amnesty International to Oxford University for awards they have given her.
On Thursday she was to visit both houses of France’s parliament — the National Assembly and the Senate — and talk to students at the Sorbonne university in Paris.
She started the day with a 45-minute breakfast with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in a Paris hotel.
On Wednesday, Suu Kyi received her 2004 honorary citizen of Paris certificate and was hailed by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe for her “tenacity” and “unshakeable faith” in her campaign for democracy in the country formerly called Burma.
Suu Kyi has enjoyed strong support among rights groups in France and was the subject of a 2011 French-English film biography, “The Lady”, directed by French filmmaker Luc Besson and starring Michelle Yeoh.
Suu Kyi also met Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and planted a tree in the ministry’s gardens.
“For us, you are the lady of human rights,” Fabius told her during the ceremony.
“We are just at the beginning of the road. We need to be extremely careful within the next three years,” Suu Kyi said at the ceremony, referring to parliamentary elections due in Myanmar in 2015.
On Tuesday, Hollande said France gave its full backing to the transition efforts in Myanmar, and said Paris was ready to welcome Thein Sein, who also received an invitation from former colonial ruler Britain last week.
Major Western powers have rolled back or suspended long-standing sanctions against Myanmar, a resource-rich but deeply impoverished country.
Suu Kyi has on her tour called for human rights-friendly investment.