Less than two weeks after her spectacular visit to Bangkok and surrounding provinces under the aegis of the World Economic Forum, Aung San Suu Kyi has embarked on a long-awaited whirlwind tour of western Europe. From Geneva to Oslo and Bergen, and from Dublin to London and Paris, she is deservedly expected to be feted like a rock star of international politics by European leaders who have been her longtime supporters through thick and thin while she spent years in the political wilderness.
The trip marks not only her personal triumph in overcoming more than two decades of repression and confinement under military dictatorship, but also Myanmar's emergence as a normalising country under democratic guises. How Mrs Suu Kyi fares in Europe over the next two weeks will have far-reaching impact in her home country and its role in Asia's dynamic neighbourhood. She will have to qualitatively shift both at home and abroad from a democracy icon in the last two decades to a stateswoman in her twilight years.
At issue is her balancing act with diverse stakeholders near and far. Tilting too far either towards her entrenched supporters or her former captors will undermine her credibility and complicate Myanmar's fragile reconciliation process. A recently elected MP, Mrs Suu Kyi believes she has already compromised a lot. Yet her partners in parliament and her former adversaries in the military, particularly President Thein Sein, may think she has not compromised enough. Thein Sein's cancellation of a visit to Thailand during the WEF and subsequent rescheduling indicates he is not pleased with her international role outside Myanmar so far. And the Suu Kyi-Thein Sein axis is integral to Myanmar's opening. Meanwhile, the various dissident groups at home, in the region and beyond may think she has compromised too much.
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