Aung San Suu Kyi puts her newfound freedom to the test

The Burmese democracy leader today defies warnings to make her first political appearance outside Rangoon since her release

Aung San Suu Kyi will make her first political appearance outside Burma's main city, Rangoon, today since her release from seven years of house arrest, a journey that is going ahead despite a government warning it could trigger riots. The opposition leader's one-day trip to meet supporters in two towns to the north will test the limits of Ms Suu Kyi's freedom.

The last time she travelled to the countryside, in 2003, supporters of the country's now-disbanded military junta ambushed her entourage. Ms Suu Kyi escaped, but was detained and later placed under house arrest. She was released last November. A spokesman for the Nobel peace prize laureate, Nyan Win, said he expected today's trip to go smoothly. "We are not worried about security," Mr Win said. "We will provide our own security and authorities will also co-operate with us."

The brief trip will take Ms Suu Kyi about 50 miles north of Rangoon to the towns of Bago and Thanatpin, where she will meet party members and open two public libraries, Mr Win said. More trips will follow, but neither the dates nor the destinations have been decided upon. Win Htein, a leader of Ms Suu Kyi's party, said the trip was crucial because it "will test the reaction of the authorities and the response of the people". He added, "This trip will be a test for everything."

After half a century of army rule, the country organised elections late last year and officially handed power to a civilian administration in March. But critics say the new government, led by retired military figures, is a proxy for continued military rule and little has changed since.

Some 2,000 political prisoners remain behind bars, more than 100,000 refugees live in neighbouring countries, and sporadic clashes have erupted in the north-east between government troops and ethnic militias which have been fighting for greater autonomy for decades.

On Friday, however, Ms Suu Kyi held her second meeting with Burma's Labour and Social Welfare minister, Aung Kyi. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported yesterday that the two sides agreed to co-operate on national stability and development. Also on Friday, the Information minister, Kyaw Hsan, urged Ms Suu Kyi to register her National League for Democracy (NLD) officially as a party, a step that would imply its acceptance of the government's legitimacy and allow it to take part legally in politics.

If Ms Suu Kyi's group reaches an accommodation with the government, it could serve as a reason for Western nations to lift political and economic embargoes on the country which have hindered development and pushed it into dependence on neighbouring China. What the Nobel laureate would expect in exchange for registering her party is unclear, though it could include the freedom of some of the country's 2,000 political prisoners.

The previous military government ordered the NLD's dissolution after it refused to register for last November's general election, describing the polls as unfair and undemocratic. The NLD contends its deregistration by the government was illegal, but a lawsuit seeking its reinstatement was dismissed. It nonetheless continues to carry out organised activities.

Ms Suu Kyi has travelled outside Rangoon since her release from house arrest, but not on publicised trips. Last month, she journeyed to the ancient city of Bagan with her son on a private pilgrimage. This nevertheless drew a large crowds of supporters and scores of undercover police and intelligence agents. Ms Suu Kyi made no speeches, and the trip ended without incident. In June, the government said it would not stop Ms Suu Kyi from travelling up-country to meet supporters, but warned her that the visits could trigger riots.

More than 30,000 people have been displaced by fighting in eastern Burma this year despite the army handing power over to a nominally civilian government, said activist groups.

Civilians who have been traumatised by atrocities by troops, including rape and mutilation, now face "a dire humanitarian crisis", according to the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network, organisations in Burma's Shan state. They report that many people fled into forests near their villages after skirmishes – which broke a 22-year ceasefire – began in March, only weeks before the new civilian-led administration took over after years of rule by the country's military junta.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
News
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
news
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game