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Aung San Suu Kyi Begins Travel Outside Burmese Capital - 2002-07-20


Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left for her second political organizing trip outside the capital since she was freed from house arrest in May. This is another sign of easing tensions between the opposition and military government since they began closed door talks 21 months ago. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

Aung San Suu Kyi set off from the capital early Saturday morning in a three car motorcade for the 300-kilometer trip to Burma's Mon State.

This marks the second time since being freed from house arrest in May, that the opposition leader has been allowed to leave Rangoon for political meetings on rebuilding her party, the National League for Democracy, or NLD.

Aung San Suu Kyi was received warmly by large crowds when she traveled to Mandalay in late June. But she has been careful to play down her movements, and to avoid making comments directly critical of the government. Her public addresses have focused on issues such as national development and education, as opposed to pressing directly for political reforms.

The NLD has been pushing for democracy since the military government refused to hand over power, after losing the 1990 elections. For most of the last 12 years, the ruling generals have repressed political dissent, and arrested NLD members and supporters.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest for years. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner has been able to use her status as a symbol of democracy to bring international pressure and sanctions on the Burmese government.

Since October 2000, the government has engaged in U.N. brokered talks with Aung San Suu Kyi on political transition. The result has been a significant decrease in tensions, and the NLD has been given limited freedom of movement and association. But there has been no movement on how to break the political deadlock on a timetable, or plan, for a transition in government.

Burma's opposition is growing frustrated with the slow pace of talks. On Friday, NLD vice chairman Tin Oo called on the government to engage in a more substantive dialogue to address Burma's problems.

Next month, United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, who helped broker Aung San Suu Kyi's recent freedom, is returning to Burma, and also is expected to press the military government on opening formal talks.