On her first international trip since 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi is in Thailand to attend a World Economic Forum summit on Friday. Next month she will travel to Europe, collecting while there the Nobel Peace Prize awarded her in 1991.
Not for nearly 25 years has Aung San Suu Kyi dared step outside her homeland. Not even to see her husband as he lay dying in Britain. If she ever left, she feared, Myanmar’s military government would never let her return home.
Determined never to give up, the woman who has become an icon not only for her own people but for democracy activists worldwide refused to give the generals an opportunity to sideline her. She put up with 15 years of house arrest rather than risk becoming an exiled irrelevance.
Now she is on her first international trip since 1988, visiting neighboring Thailand to attend a World Economic Forum summit on Friday, in a sign of her confidence in recent reforms in Myanmar (also known as Burma).
Today, though, her first full day abroad, she must have felt right at home.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi spent the morning in the town of Mahachai, home to Thailand’s largest community of Burmese migrant workers. Thousands mobbed her before she addressed the crowd from the balcony of a community center.
Around 2.5 million impoverished Burmese have fled their country in search of jobs in Thailand – an illustration of how badly Myanmar’s economy suffered under nearly half a century of military rule.