BANGKOK - Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi ventured outside Myanmar for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday in an unmistakable display of confidence in the liberalization taking shape in her country after five decades of military rule.

Dressed in an orange blouse and traditional Burmese longhi, or sarong, the democracy leader made no public remarks during a low-key arrival at Bangkok's futuristic Suvarnabhumi airport. The airport terminal symbolized the boom that Thailand enjoyed while neighboring Myanmar wilted under economic sanctions and years of inept army rule.

Photographers clamored for a glimpse of Suu Kyi's first steps on foreign soil in nearly a quarter of a century as she emerged slowly from the arrivals terminal, smiling confidently and waving from the window of her car to the cheers of a few dozen people. "Mother Suu is a brave woman, a woman who made a lot of sacrifices for her country," said Kae Thi, a 36-year-old Burmese migrant worker who came to greet her. "There is no one out there who can replace mother Suu. There is no one," she added, speaking in Thai.

The 66-year-old, who returned to her country temporarily - she thought - in 1988 but spent 15 years in detention for her steely fight against dictatorship, will give a speech on Friday at the World Economic Forum on East Asia and is scheduled to meet Burmese migrant workers and visit refugees during her historic four-day trip.

Until now, Suu Kyi has refused to leave Myanmar during brief periods of freedom from detention, fearing the generals she was challenging would not let her back.

Her decision to leave the country now follows a year of dramatic change unthinkable in March 2011, when junta strongman Than Shwe made way for a government stacked with his protégés, after elections seen as rigged to favor an army-backed party and held while Suu Kyi was under house arrest.

Suu Kyi was released and is now a parliamentarian, having been persuaded by reformist President Thein Sein, a former junta heavyweight she says is sincere and trustworthy, to contest a by-election and join a political system devised and dominated by retired and serving soldiers.

Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, protests legalized and media censorship eased. Dialogue with ethnic minority rebels is moving forward, as is economic liberalization.

The reforms have persuaded Suu Kyi to support the suspension of Western sanctions, having previously staunchly advocated embargoes to squeeze the generals.

 The reforms have convinced her that she will be allowed back into Myanmar after her trip. "After the 2010 elections, no one believed this would happen, it's beyond our expectations," said Kyaw Zwa Moe, a Myanmar exile and editor of the Thailand-based English-language edition of the Irrawaddy magazine.

"To see her leave the country and attend an event like this is hugely significant, even for Thein Sein's government. The world has looked to her as a leader of our country and it's a chance for her to convince the international community to help prevent these reforms from pausing."

Thein Sein was due to give a speech at the same forum in Bangkok, but has postponed his visit until June 4-5, government officials in Myanmar and Thailand said on Tuesday, without saying why he had put off the trip.

Suu Kyi's international exposure and new role as a parliamentarian, though a boon for her country, will likely add to the burden of expectations placed upon her by a public who have for years seen her as their sole hope for change.

Suu Kyi, whose father led Myanmar's campaign for independence from British rule, spent years away from home, many of them in Britain where she married British academic Michael Aris and raised a family. She returned to her homeland in 1988 to take care of her dying mother and got caught up in a student-led democracy uprising that swept the country but was eventually crushed by the military.

Suu Kyi was first detained in 1989 and refused to leave, even when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1999. Suu Kyi will kick off her trip with a visit to Burmese migrant workers in Bangkok's surrounding provinces on Wednesday. She will spend the next two days at the economic forum before visiting exiled ethnic minority leaders and Burmese refugees living in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.

Next month she is due to visit Switzerland, Norway and Britain. She will give an address to an international labor conference in Geneva on June 14 and will spend a week in Britain from June 18, during which she will give a speech to both houses of parliament.