There would seem to be no better way of assessing the state of democratic reform in Myanmar than looking to Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. No longer under house arrest, the democracy icon and 42 party colleagues hold seats in the nominally civilian parliament and now, for the first time in 24 years, she has left the country for an overseas trip. For a nation that 18 months ago was firmly a military dictatorship, these are stunning and historic events, but her freedom is not the sole bellwether of progress. As long as the nation lacks strong institutions to keep authoritarian rule in check, the changes can easily be reversed. Suu Kyi's trips to Bangkok this week to address the World Economic Forum and to Europe next month to collect her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize are without doubt significant. When not under house detention, she dared not leave Myanmar for fear of being barred from returning. That meant being unable to be at the bedside of her dying husband in Britain in 1999 or visit her two sons, who were stripped of their citizenship in 1989 and live overseas. Sacrificing her personal life for her country was a powerful and necessary statement - and ensured that the junta's biggest thorn stayed firmly in its side. President Thein Sein, a former general, seems committed to change. In little more than a year, he has overseen greater government transparency, transformation of the economy, the elections that put Suu Kyi in parliament last month, the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners and the launch of substantive peace efforts with most ethnic groups. No matter how determined he may be, though, half a century of military misrule and civil war cannot be undone overnight. Tellingly, the constitution still vests authority in the regime, giving it the power to pull the plug on reforms whenever it wishes. For some Myanmese, Suu Kyi's being given an entry stamp on her return will be proof of the military's commitment. In reality, it will be just another step on a rocky path that needs many more reforms.