Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi sought Tuesday to assure the country's powerful military that her opposition party seeks no confrontation with it, as she campaigned ahead of April by-elections in the capital city.
The Nobel laureate spoke twice to several thousand cheering supporters in the military stronghold of Naypyitaw. In a message to the military establishment, she said her National League for Democracy party, long persecuted by the country's former military junta, welcomes military support.
"There are many Tatmadaw [military] servicemen in this constituency," she said. "I welcome the Tatmadaw and I want to say that our party, the NLD, is not an organization that will confront the Tatmadaw. We want to be proud of the Tatmadaw, a Tatmadaw that is accepted by people. We want our Tatmadaw to be respected in the world and we want [it] to be [a] modern Tatmadaw."
The NLD is fielding candidates for all 48 available seats in parliament in the April 1 polls, including four in the capital. Aung San Suu Kyi is seeking a legislative seat in a district south of Rangoon.
Western reporters described Tuesday's turnout for Aung San Suu Kyi as smaller than in recent days, when she campaigned in ethnic minority regions of upper Burma.
The United States says it is considering lifting long-standing economic sanctions imposed on the former junta. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials say any such easement will depend, in large part, on evidence that the April 1 elections are free and fair.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, a prisoner of the country's former military regime. She gained her release in late 2010 as the military government prepared to cede power.
Her NLD party is attempting to return to parliament for the first time since its landslide electoral victory two decades ago. The military prevented it from taking power at that time.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.