Aung San Suu Kyi called for unity in Myanmar as she was feted by thousands of supporters today during her first political trip outside her home city since being released from house arrest.
Suu Kyi, who was released from seven straight years of detention in November just days after a controversial election, defied a government security warning with a visit to the Bago region north of Yangon, in a key test of her freedom.
Police tried to clear people off roads as hundreds lined the streets to greet the 66-year-old democracy icon as she travelled between towns, many of them shouting and waving banners saying: “We love Mother Suu!”
After visiting a local pagoda, she made similar speeches at the openings of two libraries, the first to about 600 people in Tha Nat Pin and the second to about 2,000 in nearby Bago town, an AFP reporter witnessed.
She thanked her followers for their support, asking them to keep providing it. She said she had always “tried her best” since she entered politics more than 20 years ago, and would “continue as much as I can”.
Suu Kyi’s call for unity could be taken as a possible goodwill gesture towards her jailers, given the sensitive nature of a political trip.
The military-backed government warned her in June that such a tour could spark chaos and riots, although her one-day excursion, which included a visit to another temple before she returned home, appeared to pass peacefully.
A convoy of about 30 cars left Yangon early in the morning, also carrying members of her National League for Democracy (NLD), journalists and diplomats.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner told AFP as she embarked on the trip that she was reliant “on the support of the people” — which appeared to be much in evidence in Bago.
“I’m very happy to see her. We all are,” said Win Win Myint, a 23-year-old student. “I haven’t see her in person before.”
Initial talks in July came just days after the United States called for “concrete” progress towards democracy.
Myanmar is subject to economic sanctions by the US and other western nations who are calling for democratic and human rights reforms.