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Burmese Opposition Leader Embarks on 'Political Organizing' Trip

Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has embarked on a 10-day political organizing trip in northern Chin state. The trip starts as the prospects for political reform in Burma look bleak.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's opposition National League for Democracy, left Rangoon early Thursday with party vice chairman, Tin Oo, and a dozen NLD youth members.

Aung San Suu Kyi intends to use the trip to Chin state to rebuild the NLD 's provincial membership. It is the sixth trip since she was released from house arrest in May last year.

The effort to rebuild the party comes after more than a decade of political harassment and arrests by the authorities following the NLD landslide victory in national elections in 1990. The NLD was never allowed to take power and its ranks have been decimated by the government's tough stance.

Burma analysts say the trip will be a new test of whether Aung San Suu Kyi will face interference from local authorities. In December, local officials tried to disrupt her trip to northern Rakhine state.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been cautious in her comments at her rallies and has focused on a call for national development and reconciliation.

The latest trip comes against a backdrop of growing frustration within the NLD over the slow pace of political change. The government and Aung San Suu Kyi have been in reconciliation talks for 18 months, but little progress has been made on reforms.

Last month, human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, made a new call for the release of all political prisoners. About 1,200 are still imprisoned.

Also, the United Nations special envoy on human rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told the U.N. Commission on Human Rights the military government is using political prisoners as a bargaining tool in its talks with the NLD. Mr. Pinheiro also said he feared the government is slowing down its release of political prisoners.