Thousands of well-wishers greeted pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday as she made her first political trip outside Yangon since her release from house arrest in November 2010. The government and state media had warned that the trip could trigger unrest, but Ms. Suu Kyi’s journey turned out to be a peaceful one. This was in contrast to a similar excursion in 2003 when Ms. Suu Kyi’s convoy was attacked, resulting in the deaths of more than 30 people and a seven-year house arrest for Ms. Suu Kyi.
Ms. Suu Kyi’s trip on Sunday involved visiting flood victims and opening public libraries in Thanatpin and Bago. She gave a ten-minute speech in Thanatpin, calling for people to support her political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). In her speech, she said that "unity is needed everywhere and it is needed especially in our country". She also vowed to continue her work “as much as I can". She made a similar speech in Bago, highlighting that time would be needed in order for true democratic change to take place.
Following a general election in November 2010, a new civilian government was instated in Myanmar in March. The new government has shown a willingness to cooperate with Ms. Suu Kyi, likely due to the fact that such a move could encourage Western nations to lift the economic and political sanctions placed against Myanmar. On Friday, Ms. Suu Kyi met with Aung Kyi, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare, and the two sides agreed to cooperate on national stability and development. Win Htein, a NLD leader, said that Ms. Suu Kyi’s trip on Sunday was crucial because it "will test the reaction of the authorities and will test the response of the people". NLD spokesman Nyan Win said that more trips would follow.
Report & Analysis: Aung San Suu Kyi greeted by thousands on trip out of Rangoon [The Guardian, 14 August 2011]
Report & Analysis: Aung San Suu Kyi in first political trip beyond Rangoon [BBC News, 14 August 2011]
Report: Myanmar Dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Visits Flood Victims [The New York Times, 14 August 2011]