Bern. Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi made a call for international investment on the first day of a landmark European tour on Thursday, but cut short her engagements in the Swiss capital due to exhaustion.
The opposition leader, on her first visit to Europe in 24 years, apologized after vomiting during a press conference in Bern, saying she was “totally exhausted” from travelling.
“I am not used to the time difference,” she told reporters after holding talks with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.
A ministry spokesman later said Suu Kyi was resting at her hotel after making a brief appearance at a reception in her honor but that a dinner with Swiss government officials was cancelled.
Suu Kyi, who is about to turn 67, flew to Geneva late on Wednesday and embarked on a full day of public engagements on Thursday.
Before travelling to Bern, the veteran activist gave a speech at the UN to a conference of the International Labor Organization, calling for “democracy friendly” investment in her impoverished country and a political settlement to end ethnic bloodshed.
Suu Kyi, who arrived at the UN offices in Geneva to flowers and applause, also appealed for investment to create jobs and training for young people.
“It’s not so much joblessness as hopelessness that threatens our future,” she said.
“Unemployed youth lose confidence in the society that has failed to give them the chance to realize their potential,” she added. “Foreign direct investment that results in job creation should be invited.”
She urged coordinated social, political and economic policies “that will put our country once again on the map of the positive and the successful.”
Her visit marks a new milestone in the political changes that have swept her country also known as Burma since decades of military rule ended last year, ushering in a quasi-civilian government and giving her party seats in parliament.
Much of the previous quarter-century she had been confined to her Yangon home on the orders of the ruling junta or afraid to leave the country in case she was barred from returning.
But as she departed on her trip on Wednesday violence continued to shake western Myanmar, pitting Buddhist Rakhines against stateless Muslim Rohingya, adding to longer-running ethnic conflicts in other parts of the country.
More than 30,000 people have been displaced by the clashes in Rakhine state, where the government has declared a state of emergency, a senior local official said on Thursday, while at least 29 people have been killed.
“I think the most important lesson we need to learn from it is the need for rule of law,” Suu Kyi told journalists after her ILO speech, referring to the ethnic and religious violence in different parts of Myanmar.
“We have said again and again … that rule of law is essential if we are to put an end to all conflict in our country. Without the rule of law such communal strife will only continue.
“We need the cooperation of all peoples to bring this to an end.”
Referring to the long-running conflict in Kachin state in northern Myanmar, where the government is trying to achieve an end to hostilities, she said, “Ceasefire is not enough.
“We have to have a political settlement if there is going to be the kind of peace that is lasting and meaningful.”
Earlier she told the ILO delegates she was “profoundly moved” by the “totally unexpected, very warm welcome” she had received at the start of her tour.
The ILO, the UN agency which draws up and monitors international labour standards, has sought for years to rid Myanmar of the practice of forced labor, which it says is widespread there.
In March, the government signed an action plan to eliminate it outright by 2015.
Suu Kyi is scheduled to visit the Swiss parliament on Friday, bringing her visit to the country to a close.
She is then due to head to Oslo where she will formally accept her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.
Later in the trip Suu Kyi will address Britain’s parliament and receive an Amnesty International human rights award in Dublin from rock star Bono, followed by a stop in France.