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Aung San Suu Kyi Exercises New Freedom of Movement - 2002-05-17

Burma's newly released democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has tested her new freedom by traveling outside the capital to visit a provincial party office.

Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to her National League for Democracy office in Shwepyitha met no opposition from the authorities.

NLD officials said she met with party officials, made a short speech, and then returned to her lakeside home. It is the first successful trip the opposition leader has made outside the capital in four years. Earlier attempts to leave the capital were blocked by the government and led to her second house arrest 19 months ago.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released May 6 after months of secret negotiations with the government. Although she traveled only 32 kilometers, her trip tested the government's willingness to allow the popular democracy leader unrestricted travel.

Political analyst Doctor Sunet from Bangkok's Chulalungkorn University calls the trip an important first step for political development in Burma, also called Myanmar.

"Nevertheless, I believe there is a long way to go. Because when it comes to Myanmar politics you see, particularly concerning the role of Aung San Suu Kyi, we have seen that there is only one important channel that could lead her to power, that is general elections," he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for six years in 1990 after the NLD won national elections. Burma's ruling generals, who have controlled the country for 40 years, never allowed the NLD to govern, and killed and imprisoned thousands of democracy supporters.

Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's independence hero, Aung San, won the Nobel Peace prize in 1991 while under house arrest.