Myanmar's Suu Kyi travels for first time since release

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 04, 2011 2:39 AM
Myanmar's Suu Kyi travels for first time since release

BAGAN, Myanmar (Reuters) - Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi ventured outside her home city on Monday for the first time since her release from house arrest in November, making a low-key visit to the ancient city of Bagan amid tight security.

The 66-year-old Nobel laureate is allowed to travel where she wants in Myanmar, but the government last month warned of "chaos and riots" if she seeks to rally support and accused her of trying to exploit the public.

Her now-defunct political party, the National League for Democracy, urged her followers to stay away, fearing a repeat of a bloody attack on her motorcade in 2003, in which 70 of her supporters were killed.

The trip by Suu Kyi and her British-born son, Kim Aris, was described as a pilgrimage by the NLD and was her first trip outside the former capital Yangon since the 2003 ambush.

She arrived in Bagan, 690 km (430 miles) north of Yangon, flanked by about a dozen NLD security guards and met NLD officials before checking into a hotel.

The NLD would not give details of Suu Kyi's visit and said she wanted to keep a low profile.

Since her release from a seven-year stint of house arrest on November 13, the daughter of slain independence hero Aung San has been conciliatory in her comments about the country's rulers and has urged dialogue.

The charismatic figurehead of Myanmar's fight against five decades of dictatorships has not been troubled by the new civilian government, which is dominated by members of the previous military regime that has long sought to undermine her.

Although the government has not tried to block her, it has frequently criticized her in commentaries carried by state-run newspapers, which act as mouthpieces for country's hardline rulers.

Newspapers have accused her of provocative acts that could lead to her "tragic end."

The government said on Wednesday it was not responsible for ensuring Suu Kyi's safety, comments which drew sharp rebukes from the United States, Australia and Britain, which said it stance went against its pledge of reconciliation.

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)