Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, is travelling to the US for the first time since she was put under house arrest in 1990 to receive the highest civilian honour in the US.
The Nobel laureate, who begins her 18-day tour of the US on Monday, will be presented the Congressional Gold Medal and meet various members of the state department and possibly the White House.
She will also hold meetings with various Burmese expatriates and groups across the US.
Since her release from house arrest in late 2010, Suu Kyi has transitioned from dissident to parliamentarian, as Myanmar has shifted from five decades of repressive military rule.
“The idea that she will be at the Rotunda of the US Capitol, to receive the highest award congress can give, just a couple of years after she was under house arrest in her own country, is just remarkable,” said Democratic Representative Joe Crowley, one of the politicians who sponsored her 2008 award of the Congressional Gold Medal.
She had been confined to her homeland since 1989.
The trip comes as the Obama administration considers easing a ban on imports from the country into the US, the main plank remaining in the tough economic sanctions that Washington has chipped away at this year to reward the country’s progress towards democracy.
President Barack Obama could waive its provisions, but he may look for further concrete action by Myanmar in exchange, such as the releases of hundreds of political prisoners who remain in detention despite the freeing of hundreds of other dissidents this year.