Cue the flowers: Suu Kyi hits the campaign trail


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The Independent Online

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was yesterday cheered by euphoric crowds as she made a campaign trip outside of Rangoon ahead of forthcoming by-elections.

Thousands of people turned out to see the 66-year-old leader of the National League for Democracy as she made a one day visit to the southern district of Dawei. Many chanted slogans, others waved bunches of flowers at her.

"We will bring democracy to the country," Ms Suu Kyi said on her first such outing since announcing that she will contest the elections. "We will work for development. We will bring rule of law to the country, and we will see to it that repressive laws are repealed."

According to the Associated Press, she added: "We can overcome any obstacle with unity and perseverance."

Ms Suu Kyi's party has registered to compete in 48 constituencies on the April 1 elections, although the country's election commission has yet to approve her candidacy.

The campaign trip was another indication of the pace of change inside Burma. It barely 15 months since Suu Kyi was released from house

arrest, where she had spent 15 of the last 23 years. Her release followed an election that most observers said was not fair.

Since then, a purportedly civilian government has come to power, headed by president Thein Sein. He has set about enforcing a series

of changes, perhaps most significant of which has been the release of many, but not all, of the country's political prisoners. Thein Sein has even indicated that Ms Suu Kyi could take up a post in his cabinet.

The government is keen to win engagement with the West and freedom from sanctions. However, some members of Ms Suu Kyi's party have warned

that she must remain cautious of the government until it shows a commitment to genuine legislative reform.