Myanmar's Suu Kyi feels ill at campaign rally

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 03, 2012 7:33 AM
Myanmar's Suu Kyi feels ill at campaign rally

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi consulted with a doctor at a large campaign rally Saturday after telling the crowd that she felt unwell and dizzy.

The doctor and other party members said the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was feeling tired because of her rigorous campaign tour ahead of April 1 by-elections.

Suu Kyi went to a hotel room and was recuperating after the rally, said Nge Nge, a personal aide who is also a physician.

"She is feeling better now. She's taking a rest," Nge Nge told The Associated Press.

Suu Kyi flew Saturday from Yangon to Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, and was greeted by what appeared to be the largest crowd so far in her election campaign, which has been hailed as another sign of how dramatically politics has changed in the country since a nominally civilian government took office a year ago and ended decades of military rule.

Many tens of thousands of cheering supporters clogged the roads for several miles (kilometers) starting at Mandalay's airport, slowing her convoy to a crawl until she reached a vast open field for a rally that was packed with tens of thousands more people.

"I haven't see such a huge crowd since 1988!" a smiling Suu Kyi told her cheering supporters, referring to a pro-democracy uprising that was brutally crushed by the former military regime.

"The road ahead is rough and tough," she said. "Democracy is hard to achieve and even if it is obtained, it will not be easy to sustain. We all have to work hard."

After speaking for a few minutes, Suu Kyi took a five-minute rest while senior party member Win Tin spoke to the crowd. Suu Kyi then returned to the podium.

At one point she said, "I am not feeling well," and also asked the tightly packed crowd to stay calm.

"Please don't push one another," she said. "As I am feeling a bit dizzy, it looks like a huge wave from the stage when the people are pushing at one another. If you love me, don't make me dizzy."

Suu Kyi left the stage after speaking for a total of about 15 minutes.

"She is very tired after a more than three-hour drive from the airport to the venue. She felt airsickness during the flight too and was feeling a bit weak," Nge Nge said.

Suu Kyi was scheduled to speak at another rally near Mandalay on Sunday.

Suu Kyi has devoted much of her life to a struggle against authoritarian rule. She spent 15 of the past 23 years under house arrest and has never held elected office. If she wins a seat in parliament, she is likely to have limited power because the legislature remains dominated by the military and the ruling party, but victory would be highly symbolic and give her a voice in government for the first time.

The April election is being held to fill 48 seats vacated by lawmakers who were appointed to the Cabinet or other posts last year. The ballot is seen as a test of the government's commitment to democratic change after nearly half a century of iron-fisted army rule.

Suu Kyi had originally planned a trip to Mandalay last month but canceled it after failing to receive permission to hold a political gathering at a football stadium.

Suu Kyi commented earlier this week that there were "a few bumps and pitfalls" in the campaign process.

"We're not happy with the way in which our right to campaign freely is restricted in some areas. Not in too many areas, but still I would hesitate to say that everything is going smoothly and everything is in line with the basic principles of democratic elections," she said.