Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi hit the campaign trail Sunday ahead of by-elections seen as a key test of the military-backed government's commitment to reform.
Thousands of cheering supporters lined the roads of several towns in the southern district of Dawei, as the Nobel Peace laureate made her first political trip outside Rangoon since her National League for Democracy party registered to run in the April 1 election.
As huge crowds screamed “Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!” and others held banners saying “You Are Our Heart,” she promised to work to bring democracy to Burma and repeal repressive laws. She told the crowds, ''There is a lot to be done. To build the country that we all want."
Aung San Suu Kyi is campaigning in the coastal district to garner support for another NLD candidate running for parliament. She will make similar trips to other areas before campaigning for her own seat as a representative of the poor district of Kawhmu, just south of Rangoon. It will be the first time the 66-year-old opposition leader has been able to directly participate in a Burmese election.
The democracy activist spent 15 of the last 20 years as a political prisoner. The NLD won an election in 1990 by a landslide while Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest, but the ruling generals ignored the result.
She was finally released from house arrest in late 2010, just days after the country held elections that were widely viewed as neither free nor fair.