Burma's most popular political activist is leaving her country for the first time in decades, a sure sign of confidence in the nation's fledgling steps toward democracy, Reuters reports. Aung San Suu Kyi plans to arrive in the Thai capital of Bangkok tomorrow to give a speech at the World Economic Forum on East Asia. Since returning to Burma in 1988, she has refused to leave during her times of freedom, thinking the military junta wouldn't let her back in.
But changes in Burma over the past 18 months have stunned observers. Suu Kyi was freed from detention, she won a seat in elections, and she came to believe that reformist President Thein Sein really is moving toward liberalization. "After the 2010 elections, no one believed this would happen, it's beyond our expectations," a Burmese exile said of Suu Kyi's upcoming trip. "It's a chance for her to convince the international community to help prevent these reforms from pausing."