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Suu Kyi makes history with arrival in Thailand

From Katie Hunt, for CNN
May 30, 2012 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
  • NEW: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Bangkok
  • This the first time the pro-democracy campaigner has left Myanmar in 24 years
  • She will speak at the World Economic Forum on East Asia on Friday
  • Also plans visit to a center for Burmese migrant workers and a refugee camp

(CNN) -- Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made history Tuesday by stepping on foreign soil for the first time in more than two decades when she arrived in Bangkok, Thailand.

The scene at the Bangkok airport might have been unimaginable a couple of years ago. Suu Kyi arrived not as a jailed activist but as a parliamentarian of her homeland. The government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been praised internationally of late for dramatic changes that have unfolded there.

The pro-democracy activist will speak at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in the Thai capital this week.

During her six-day visit, she will also address migrant workers from Myanmar and visit a refugee camp near the Thai-Myanmar border.

The visit to Thailand comes before a planned longer trip to Europe in June when she will visit Britain, the colonial ruler of Myanmar, then known as Burma, and the country where she received her university education and met her husband.

Aung San Suu Kyi takes oath of office
Aung San Suu Kyi talks to the press
British PM's historic visit to Myanmar

She will also travel to Oslo, Norway, and deliver her long-delayed acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.

During the brief periods of freedom from her long detention, Suu Kyi had always refused to leave the country, fearing that she would not be allowed back in.

Myanmar, however, has seen dramatic changes over the past year.

In May, Suu Kyi and 33 other newly elected members of her National League for Democracy party took up their seats in the Myanmar Parliament, a leap in the country's progress toward democracy.

The government has also pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, begun negotiations with ethnic rebel groups and embarked on a series of economic reforms.

Those steps have been welcomed by the United States, European Union and other governments, who have responded by easing sanctions on the country.

Obama appoints ambassador to Burma, eases investment restrictions

Suu Kyi has a packed schedule during her visit to Thailand.

On Wednesday, she will meet migrant workers from Myanmar and their families at a community center in Mahachai, southwest of Bangkok, where she will also tour a shrimp market.

She will address the World Economic Forum on Friday morning and take part in a panel discussion entitled "Asian Women as the Way Forward."

Her visit will conclude with a trip on Saturday to the Mae La refugee camp that is home to tens of thousands of Karen and other ethnic groups that were displaced by fighting inside Myanmar.

There she will also meet with ethnic leaders before her return Sunday to Myanmar.

Before leaving Myanmar on Tuesday, Suu Kyi was expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is visiting that nation.

Singh held talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein on Monday, signing agreements to strengthen trade and diplomatic ties.

Thein Sein, the former military official whose civilian government has instituted many of the country's recent political reforms, was also due to attend the World Economic Forum.

However, organizers said his appearance had been canceled.

CNN's Katie Hunt reported from Hong Kong and Kocha Olarn contributed from Bangkok.

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