01/30/2012, 00.00
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Tens of thousands attend Aung San Suu Kyi’s first election rally outside Yangon

The opposition leader on a visit to Tavoy, a town on the coast where she held a rally ahead of the vote on April 1. The Nobel Laureate calls for a "free and fair" vote and invites the population to ensure no undue pressure. Slogans and chants ring out for the "Lady".
Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Tens of thousands of people welcomed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to the first political appointment of a public nature outside Yangon. The rally yesterday in Tavoy (Dawei), a coastal town of more than 600 km from the economic and financial center of Myanmar, is part of the Nobel Laureate’s campaign trail ahead of the April 1 election. The Burmese will go to the polls for the second round of parliamentary elections, for 48 seats vacated by officials who now hold ministerial roles. The streets were literally flooded with people, who waved flags and chanted, with dances and songs dedicated to the "Lady", an icon of democratic struggle in the country.

Speaking to her supporters, the NLD leader stressed that she had "chosen the right place" to start her election tour. Popular participation is important for a "free and fair" vote so that "there are no changes to votes or threats." In the one-day visit to Dawei, the 66 year-old Aung San Suu Kyi saidshe expected "more stability" and the ability to create "many opportunities" for development. Meanwhile, the crowd loudly chanted phrases and slogans of support including "Long life to the Lady."

The possibility for the democratic opposition leader to run for a seat in Parliament is just the latest in a series of reforms implemented by the new government in Myanmar, ruled for over 50 years by a strict military dictatorship. The Executive - while comprising many former generals and senior army officers - came to power last year, following the November 2010 elections characterized by the absence of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose sentence under house arrest expired in the weeks following the vote.

Since then, the regime has launched a series of reforms, including the reinstatement of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the national political landscape, the achievement of a ceasefire with the rebel ethnic groups and the release of several hundred political prisoners. Western nations are considering the possibility of removing the economic and trade sanctions which have targeted Myanmar for more than two decades. April's vote represents an important test for the Burmese government and a possible development of international relations.

Yesterday's rally was Aung San Suu Kyi’s first outside Yangon, but the NLD leader had already made a "political" tour last year to Pegu, under strict security measures for fear of attacks. The "Lady" spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest for her fight for democracy in Myanmar. In 2003, during a brief moment of freedom, a convoy of Suu Kyi was ambushed, many believe it was orchestrated by a former military junta leader who wanted to undermine her popularity.

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