Suu Kyi on campaign trip for Burma's by-election

Suu Kyi on campaign trip for Burma's by-election

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will travel outside Rangoon on the campaign trail Sunday with a visit to a southern city to promote her party ahead of April's by-elections.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, pictured in 2011, will travel outside Yangon on the campaign trail Sunday with a visit to a southern city to promote her party ahead of April's by-elections.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, who is standing for office in the polls after spending much of the past two decades in detention, is expected to be greeted by large crowds on her one-day visit to the coastal district of Dawei.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party is running for all 48 seats up for grabs in the by-elections and she is standing in a rural constituency near Rangoon, but Sunday's trip is in support of NLD candidate Aung Soe.

"We have requested many times for Daw Suu to campaign for our region," he told AFP. Daw is a term of respect in Burma.

"She hasn't been here for 23 years. The people of Dawei are looking forward to it very much," said Aung Soe, who is standing in a local township.

Suu Kyi has spent much of the past two decades under house arrest and the NLD was stripped of its status as a legal political party after boycotting a national election in 2010, saying the rules were unfair.

The 66-year-old was released a few days after the poll and the new quasi-civilian government has since given her approval to return to the official political arena, against the backdrop of a dramatic reform programme.

The NLD won an election in 1990 by a landslide while Suu Kyi remained under house arrest, but the ruling generals never allowed the party to take power.

The coming April polls are to fill places vacated by those elected in 2010 who have since become ministers and deputy ministers in the government.

Although the seats available are not enough to threaten the resounding majority held by the army-backed ruling party, Suu Kyi's participation, if the polls are free and fair, will be a boost to the legislature's credibility.

She has made few ventures outside her home city since her release. Her first political trip was to the Bago region north of Rangoon, which passed off peacefully and saw her feted by thousands of supporters.

But security was a concern as Suu Kyi's convoy was attacked in 2003 during a political trip, in an ambush apparently organised by a junta frightened by her popularity.

Her outing on Sunday takes her to the area where a huge and controversial industrial site, the Dawei Development Project, is set to transform a sleepy strip of southern coastline.

The Thai-led, multi-billion-dollar development in the south has sparked fears about a potential influx of "dirty" industry and the displacement of thousands of people.

But in another sign of burgeoning reform Burma's government cancelled a proposed coal-fired power plant at the site this month citing "environmental problems".

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