Supporters throng to meet Suu Kyi on her travels


Aung Hla Tun, YANGON, Reuters

Thousands turned out to greet pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in southeastern Myanmar on the first day of her latest road trip outside Yangon since her release from house arrest in May.

Suu Kyi is visiting southern Mon state to meet supporters and like her previous trip to northern Mandalay in June, she toned down criticism of Myanmar’s ruling military when she spoke to supporters late on Saturday in Mawlamyaing.

An official of her National League for Democracy (NLD) said about 3,000 people greeted Suu Kyi at the rally in Mawlamyaing, capital of the Mon State about 300 km (187 miles) southeast of Yangon.

“Just like during her first political trip, she did not criticise the prevailing political situation,” the party official said on Sunday.

Suu Kyi was expected to open a number of NLD offices on Sunday and meet supporters.

The Nobel Peace prize laureate is travelling with NLD Vice-Chairman Tin Oo and nearly a dozen party officials on the trip, which is expected to last four to five days.

Since her release from 19 months of house arrest, Suu Kyi has said she wants to get down to substantive talks with Myanmar’s military leaders as soon as possible to map out the country’s political future.

The government began a dialogue with Suu Kyi in October 2000 aimed at breaking Myanmar’s political deadlock. But officials say the talks have yet to move beyond “confidence building”.

United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail is scheduled to visit the country on August 2. He was seen as instrumental to winning Suu Kyi’s freedom to travel around the country.

During her current trip Suu Kyi planned to meet local supporters, Myanmar ethnic groups and NLD’s allied Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), NLD spokesman U Lwin has said.

In Myanmar’s last general election in 1990, the NLD won 16, and MNDF four of the total 20 seats at stake in Mon state.

Suu Kyi also planned to stop at Mudon and Thanbyuzayat towns on Sunday.

Thanbyuzayat, about 130 km (80 miles) west of the Thai border, was the Myanmar end of the “Death Railway,” built by Western Allied prisoners during World War Two when the Japanese Imperial Army occupied Myanmar and Thailand.

Thanbyuzayat has a cemetery for about 3,000 Western allied prisoners who died while building the railway.