- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

MOULMEIN, Burma Crowds crammed the main street of a provincial Burmese city yesterday to welcome visiting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who urged people to support her party's long struggle for democracy in the military state.
Some 3,000 applauding residents in the eastern city of Moulmein greeted the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on her second political trip outside the capital since her release from house arrest in May.
Such large public gatherings are rare in Burma, also known as Myanmar, other than at rallies organized by the military, which has ruled for the past 40 years.
"Nothing is permanent, so if you are faced with defeat just keep working toward the goal," Mrs. Suu Kyi told the well-wishers.
Mrs. Suu Kyi, 57, left the capital Rangoon in a three-car motorcade early yesterday heading to Moulmein on a four-day trip that shows the ruling junta's new willingness to allow her and her National League for Democracy some political freedom.
"With the support and strength of the people, the NLD will be able to achieve its goal toward democracy faster," Mrs. Suu Kyi said during one of her four stops on the way to Moulmein, the capital of Mon state, 180 miles east of Rangoon.
About 200 people, including 20 to 30 local NLD members, waited for Mrs. Suu Kyi at each stop.
In Paung, 170 miles from Rangoon, a makeshift cardboard placard read "NLD no" in English and "We don't want NLD" in the Burmese language. One woman at the scene said the signs were put up by strangers.
Mrs. Suu Kyi, delivering brief speeches, stressed the importance of public political awareness and education for young people, noting Burma lagged far behind neighboring countries in development.
Burma has been under military rule since 1962 and under the control of the current junta since it crushed a pro-democracy movement in 1988.
The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when the NLD scored an overwhelming victory. Instead, they jailed thousands of NLD members.
Mrs. Suu Kyi was placed under six years of house arrest in 1989 and again in September 2000 for 19 months for making a trip outside Rangoon to rally political support.
Her May 6 release, part of a reconciliation dialogue, was followed by a trip to the northern city of Mandalay. Until then, Mrs. Suu Kyi had been refused permission to travel outside of Rangoon and was even physically blocked from leaving.
But the political climate appears to have changed, although the military shows no signs of actually giving up or sharing real power with pro-democracy forces.
Her release was seen to be partly the result of international pressure. Tough economic sanctions imposed by the West have increased unemployment and the departure of multinational corporations has depressed Burma's already impoverished economy.


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