Myanmar's Nobel laureate Suu Kyi to miss Canada as she tours U.S.
OTTAWA - Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will bypass Canada as she kicks off a marathon 17-day visit to the United States.
Suu Kyi, an internationally recognized symbol of peaceful political resistance, is taking a pass six months after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird travelled to Myanmar to personally confer honorary Canadian citizenship on the Nobel laureate.
Suu Kyi arrived in Washington on Monday for a tour that will include high-level meetings and visits with members of the Burmese diaspora in subsequent stops in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Louisville, and Fort Wayne, Ind.
A trip north of the 49th parallel to Canada is not on her itinerary.
Tin Maung Htoo, executive Director of the Canadian Friends of Burma, said the group is disappointed Suu Kyi won't be making it to Canada, which has conferred honorary citizenship on only four other people.
"People are talking about why she cannot visit for a short time, even for a day or two, when she will be in the States for 17 days," he said in an interview.
The government hopes that a mutually agreeable time can be found in the future for Suu Kyi to visit Canada. Baird personally extended an invitation to the 67-year-old on his trip to Myanmar, also known as Burma.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is an amazing woman whose time is very much in demand," said Baird's spokesman Rick Roth.
"When the minister was in Burma in March and presented her with her honorary Canadian citizenship, he invited her to visit Canada when her schedule permits.
"She has expressed regrets that a visit is not possible this time."
Baird described his meeting with Suu Kyi at her lakeside Yangon residence, where she spent 15 of 23 years under arrest by her country's military junta, as a career highlight.
One month after his visit, Suu Kyi was elected to Myanmar's parliament in a historic election.
Buoyed by the progress shown by Myanmar's new civilian leadership, Canada has since lifted onerous sanctions on the resource-rich South Asian country, and is set to open an embassy there staffed with a full-time trade commissioner.
Suu Kyi left Myanmar for the first time since her house arrest was lifted earlier this year when she travelled to Norway to accept her Nobel Peace Prize and to Britain.
Maung Htoo said he was hopeful that because she added Ireland and France to that trip, a visit to Canada might be added this time.
But when he saw her detailed itinerary a few days ago, he realized that wasn't going to happen.
"I didn't see any room left unless she really changed her schedule."
In recent weeks, Maung Htoo said he wondered whether his group and the Canadian government had done enough to try to arrange a visit.
"I feel like we failed to bring her to Canada. That is my feeling," he said. "Of course, this is the government's job … but we are ready to help the government in any possible way."
On her U.S. tour, Suu Kyi is to receive Congress' highest honour and will meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also called on her in Myanmar late last year. She may also visit the White House.
Suu Kyi has already managed to accomplish a rare feat in American politics — she has the united bipartisan support of Republicans and Democrats.
Indeed, when Parliament granted her honorary Canadian citizenship in 2007, it too was a unanimous vote.