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Myanmar's Suu Kyi warns against 'reckless optimism'

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the World Economic Forum in Bangkok saying, "we just want to improve the state of Burma" and urged the international community to not be overly optimistic about her country's reform process. NBC's Ian Williams reports.

BANGKOK -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi stole the show at a regional economic forum here in Bangkok Friday.

It's the first time she's traveled abroad in almost a quarter of a century, and her audience, the good and the great of Asia's business and political world, were hanging on her every word.


"We just want to improve the state of Burma," she said in a speech to the World Economic Forum on East Asia.  "That's what we mean when we say reform."

EPA / Barbara Walton

Aung San Suu Kyi (C) speaks during an event at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday.

Her speech was in many ways a reality check, warning against what she called "reckless optimism" over the rapid reforms taking place in Myanmar, also known as Burma. 

The Oxford-educated daughter of Myanmar's slain independence leader added:

"I would not like you to be over-optimistic. I think optimism is good, but cautious optimism. These days I am coming across a lot of what I would call reckless optimism. That is not going to help you. It's not going to help us. So we need a balanced report. A little bit of healthy skepticism I think is in order." 

In Bangkok, she's been given a hero's welcome by Myanmar migrants -- who call her Mother Suu.  More than two million live in Thailand -- workers, refugees and exiles who've escaped the poverty and repression back home, and for whom she had a message of hope -- that conditions would soon be right for them to return.

For the first time in nearly a quarter century, Myanmar's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has left her country for a journey overseas, first to Bangkok and later to Europe. NBC's Ian Williams reports.

Even when she wasn't in detention, Suu Kyi, 66, had not left Myanmar since 1988, fearing the ruling generals wouldn't let her back in -- even when her husband was dying in the U.K.

Myanmar's president, who kicked off the reforms by releasing Suu Kyi from house arrest and allowing her to run for parliament, was also invited to this forum, but decided to stay at home --- fearing he's be upstaged.

Suu Kyi receives ecstatic Thailand welcome

Still, the fact Suu Kyi has decided to leave for this visit -- with more planned to Europe -- is in itself a vote of confidence in the reforms.

In Dublin, she'll share a stage with U2 frontman Bono, a staunch Suu Kyi supporter, at a concert in her honor, according to Irish media. In England, she has been given the rare honor of addressing both houses of Parliament. France's Foreign Ministry says she also plans to stop in Paris.

And in Norway she'll deal with some unfinished business -- picking up her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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