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Burmese Opposition Leader Leaves Rangoon for Political Consultations - 2002-06-22

Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi tested the political boundaries of her release from house arrest by starting a journey to the city of Mandalay Saturday. The trip is part of the rebuilding process for the National League for Democracy, or NLD.

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi left her Rangoon residence for Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, near dawn. National League for Democracy officials saying she will be away for 10 days.

The trip is the second undertaken by Aung San Suu Kyi since her release from house arrest on May 6. The first, last week, was a two-day private pilgrimage to meet with a revered Buddhist monk.

This time, she will hold political consultations with NLD members. Senior party officials, including vice chairman U Tin Oo, also are on the trip.

Since her release, Aung San Suu Kyi has been rebuilding the party structure, devastated in recent years by harassment from the military government and the arrests of party members.

On this journey, Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to stay overnight in several towns, including the hometown of her father, independence hero General Aung San.

Aung San Sun Kyi attempted to travel out of Rangoon in September 2000, but was placed under house detention until her release in May. She also spent much of the 1990s under house arrest, after the NLD decisively won national elections. The military never let the party take over the government.

In late 2000, Aung San Suu Kyi and the military government began secretive talks, with the assistance of a United Nations envoy, as part of efforts to create a political dialogue.

The latest journey tests of the success of those talks. The government promised Aung San Suu Kyi unrestricted movement after her release from detention. Burma observers will also watch to see whether Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to conduct political rallies in Mandalay.

The government hopes that Aung San Suu Kyi's release and her unrestricted political movement will lead major donor nations to ease sanctions on aid and trade with the impoverished country.