Aung San Suu Kyi will leave Burma for the first time in 24 years

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Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi leaves a polling station in her car in the village of Wah Thin Kha, Myanmar Photo: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

She's been thought of as Asia's Mandela, for many years Aung San Suu Kyi was the world's most famous political prisoner, spending almost two decades under house arrest in a lake side villa in Rangoon.

To get anywhere near 'the Lady's' house you first had to get into Burma, foreign journalists were banned and so getting news out of a secretive country run by a paranoid and brutal military regime was risky. She was cut off and looked like she'd stay isolated from the outside world.

Around a year and a half ago, elections were held, but the opposition was barely tolerated, campaigning restricted. ASSK's party, the National league for Democracy, wasn't even standing, as a protest against a rigged poll.

Just 18 months later and she's an MP and about to join the former military dictator, now an apparent democratic reformer, at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok.

 Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves her office after a meeting in front of the National League for Democracy Party Credit: Reuters

This will be her first trip outside Burma for 24 years, since she was first detained illegally by the Military who overturned her party's victory in the 1990 general election.

Now 'The Lady' and Burma are stepping out together onto the world stage, for the first time, with all the promise that holds.

It's notable that her first destination is to the World Economic Forum, being held in Bangkok, the capital of one of Asia's most successful democracies.

Burma's people need economic assistance as much as they've been crying out for political reform. Much of the capital city, Rangoon, is trapped in a time warp; many cars are old and the buildings faded. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU have taken their toll over many years.

When I was last In Burma an old banger could cost as much as £20,000 because the domestic economy has been warped by isolation.

David Cameron meets pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
David Cameron meets pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Lakeside Villa in Rangoon Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Both ASSK and the President know they need the help of their neighbours, Thailand, India and China, naturally, for future economic stability. Now opening up politically, the long suffering Burmese are looking for better wages, better jobs and better lives.

Economically, this historic trip, just a couple of hours by plane, will be seen as Burma making the final stages of a long journey into the welcoming arms of Asia, while ASSK is being welcomed back by the outside world.