Myanmar's Suu Kyi to plans first trip since release

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2011 10:14 AM
Myanmar's Suu Kyi to plans first trip since release

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will next week travel outside her home city for the first time since her release from a seven-year stint of house arrest last November, a spokesman for her former party said.

Suu Kyi plans to join her son, Kim, on a four-day pilgrimage from July 4 to Bagan, an ancient city about 700 km (435 miles) north of Yangon, where she has spent the past eight years.

"The purpose of the trip is purely religious," Han Tha Myint, a spokesmen for Suu Kyi's now defunct National League for Democracy Party (NLD), said Thursday, adding she would travel by plane.

Suu Kyi, 66, was expected to go on a series of one-day trips outside Yangon next week, prompting concerns by her supporters about her personal safety. Several government-run newspapers carried commentaries Wednesday warning of "chaos and riots" if Suu Kyi went ahead.

The Nobel laureate's last tour in 2003 was marred by an ambush on her motorcade by thugs believed to be hired by the then ruling military junta.

More than 70 of her supporters were killed in the incident, known as the Depayin Massacre. It was widely seen as an assassination attempt on Suu Kyi, who was put back under house arrest, or what the regime called "protective custody."

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday the new Myanmar government was responsible for Suu Kyi's safety everywhere in the country.

The charismatic figurehead of Myanmar's fight against five decades of military dictatorships has been given unprecedented freedom by the generals who have long despised her and still control Myanmar behind a new civilian government.

Through its media mouthpieces, the government has warned Suu Kyi not to overstep the mark, saying she would meet a "tragic end" and accusing her of provocative acts.

Since her release on November 13 last year, the daughter of slain independence hero Aung San has be conciliatory in her comments about the country's rulers and has urged dialogue.

She has met regularly with diplomats and envoys and analysts expect her to play a pivotal role in the debate over whether Western sanctions on the former British colony should be lifted.

The government has not responded to her offer but has instead invited the NLD, which was disbanded for boycotting last year's much-criticized election, to register as a social organization, then run in the next polls in 2015.

"They still have opportunity to participate legally in the next election if they want to," said a commentary published in three newspapers Thursday.

"We do not want to see street politics, public panic and anarchy again.

"If they want to serve public interests, I would like to request they be considerate toward the public and continue to do politics in the framework of the law," it said.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alex Richardson)