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Democracy champion Suu Kyi departs for historic US trip

Aung San Suu Kyi left Myanmar Sunday for her first trip to the US since her democracy struggle started in 1988.

Clone of Aung san suu kyi through the years 21Enlarge
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi departed Sunday for her first trip to the US since her democracy struggles began in 1988. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar's democracy champion, Aung San Suu Kyi, departed Sunday for a historic trip to the United States where she will meet President Obama and be quizzed on the progress of democracy reforms in her country, reports AFP. 

AFP says Suu Kyi flew out of Yangon accompanied by Derek Mitchell, the new US ambassador to Myanmar. 

She will spend 18 days in the US and will be presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor in the country, and will meet with various Burmese groups in San Francisco and New York, reports the Guardian newspaper.

Suu Kyi will likely be asked about the progress of Myanmar's tentative steps toward joining the world stage after spending decades shrouded under a secretive military regime.

"I think Daw Suu can talk at least about the reforms situation in Myanmar. She will get this opportunity," Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party told AFP, using a common honorific for the opposition leader.

The new civilian-led, but military-backed, government led by reformist President Thein Sein, has put into place a series of political and social reforms that relaxed media laws, legalized protests and released hundreds of political prisoners, reports the BBC. 

Sein is planning his own trip to the US later this month and there is a risk that Suu Kyi's visit could cause political problems. 

Richard Horsey, an independent Myanmar analyst, told AFP, "there is a risk that she will overshadow this significant first US visit by Thein Sein -- who has not yet really gotten the international recognition that he deserves for the remarkable reform process that he has put in place."

Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Burma, but was released in 2010 and remarkably was elected to parliament in April.