Aung San Suu Kyi: Burma pro-democracy leader visits US

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Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Rangoon international airport, Burma (16 Sept 2012)
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Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to be asked about Burma's recent ethnic violence

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is travelling to the United States, her first visit to the country in two decades.

During her 18-day trip she will be presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour in the US, among other awards.

She will also meet President Barack Obama and various Burmese groups.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Burma, but was elected to parliament in April.

The new civilian-led, but military-backed, government has enacted a series of political and social reforms, including the relaxing of media laws, the legalisation of protests and the releasing of hundreds of political prisoners.

In response, Western nations including the US have lifted sanctions imposed during the military rule.

The Nobel laureate is likely to face questions over deadly ethnic conflict in western Rakhine state earlier this year.

The violence, which pitted Burma's majority Buddhists against minority Muslims, was sparked by the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman. Dozens of people died and thousands were displaced.

Rights groups have expressed concern over the fate of the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim group who Burma says are not Burmese citizens but who have often been denied asylum in neighbouring countries.

Aung San Suu Kyi has remained relatively quiet on the issue, although has called in parliament for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.

Asked in June whether Rohingya should be regarded as Burmese citizens, she said: "I do not know", saying Burma should clarify its citizenship laws.