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Suu Kyi arrives in Japan for first visit in 27 years

Kyodo

Myanmar prodemocracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Japan on Saturday for her first trip to the country in 27 years, seeking support for her homeland’s ongoing democratization and economic development through meetings with political and corporate leaders.

The 67-year-old head of the opposition National League for Democracy party was invited to visit by the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to bolster ties with the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who wields considerable influence both in Myanmar and on the world stage, officials said.

After touching down at Narita International Airport at the start of a weeklong visit, Suu Kyi in the afternoon attended a 1,800-strong gathering in Tokyo of Myanmar democracy activists based in Japan. After a rousing welcome, Suu Kyi called on her supporters to make use of all they have learned from their time in Japan for the betterment of fast-reforming Myanmar.

“Whether you return to Myanmar or not, please always appreciate the gratitude of your host country for allowing you all the chance to live here and learn, and nurture your kids,” she added.

Responding to a question on the possibility of amending Myanmar’s military-backed constitution after national elections in 2015, Suu Kyi said, “My opinion is that it would be better if we can have it (constitutional revision) done before” the 2015 poll. She further stressed that it would be “impossible” to hold fair elections under the current constitution.

She also voiced hope that overseas corporate investment in Myanmar, including from Japanese businesses, will help drive job creation.

Japan has stepped up efforts to assist Myanmar’s democratic and economic reform since the country, which was ruled by an oppressive military regime for decades, embarked on its shift toward democracy in March 2011. Japanese companies are vying to invest in the country to tap its abundant and comparatively cheap labor force.

Suu Kyi is expected to call for greater investment in her nation during planned meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as with the heads of both chambers of the Diet and leaders from the corporate community.

During her stay, Suu Kyi will also travel to the city of Kyoto to give lectures at Kyoto and Ryukoku universities. She lived in the ancient capital as a visiting scholar from 1985 to 1986, before returning to Myanmar and being held under house arrest for years by the ruling junta.