Yangon: Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi heads to Thailand on Tuesday for her first trip abroad in more than two decades, ending an era of isolation and cementing her arrival on the global stage.
The former political prisoner, who won a seat in Parliament in historic April by-elections, is expected to meet the Thai Prime Minister, attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia and meet Myanmar communities during several days in the country.
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 of the past 22 years under house arrest, will emerge into a world transformed -- the skyscrapers and frenetic activity of Bangkok presenting a stark contrast to her home city of Yangon, with its crumbling architecture and frequent power outages.
She is due to arrive in Bangkok around 1440 GMT. The Nobel laureate’s plan to leave Myanmar for the first time since 1988 comes as dramatic changes sweep the country, after decades of outright military rule ended last year.
Suu Kyi, fearful that she would never be allowed to return, had refused to travel abroad in the past, even when the former junta denied her dying husband a visa to visit her from Britain.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies in Japan’s Kyoto University, said the visit signals “she is very confident in her position, confident with the ongoing reconciliation and political reforms”.
The trip will “convey a message” from the Myanmar government that its reforms, which have caused unprecedented thawing of relations with the international community and easing of tough sanctions, are sustainable.