|Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, center, delivers a speech during her election campaign rally in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, Monday, March 5, 2012. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)|
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) ó Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
brought her political challenge to the gates of her rivals Monday, campaigning
for her party's candidates facing a tough battle in Myanmar's remote,
Suu Kyi spoke at two rallies for candidates of her
National League for Democracy, who are running in four constituencies in
Naypyitaw in the April 1 by-elections. The party is fielding candidates for all
48 seats at stake nationwide after boycotting 2010's general election as
In this stronghold of the ruling army-backed Union
Solidarity and Development Party, she said she had faith in the area's
All four NLD candidates in Naypyitaw are veteran
political activists, and two of them were released from prison only in January
under an amnesty for political detainees. One of them, 30-year-old Zeyar Thaw,
is also a former popular hip-hop singer.
The seats they are contesting were vacated last year
by senior members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party who took senior
government positions: President Thein Sein, Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo, Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann and
Agriculture Minister Myint Hlaing.
Naypyitaw is a stronghold for the government party. It
was custom-built in a backwater area of the country just a decade ago under the
then-ruling military junta. It officially replaced Yangon as the capital in
2005 after it was populated with relocated civil servants and a large military
Sandar Min, 44, is a former student activist who is
the NLD candidate for the lower house seat from Zabu Thiri constituency vacated
by Thein Sein, whose moves toward political liberalization after decades of
military repression succeeded in luring Suu Kyi's party back into electoral
|Supporters wave party flags of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy during her election campaign rally in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, Monday, March 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win|
The NLD had won a 1990 general election but was not
allowed by the military to take power. It boycotted the 2010 election,
complaining that it was being held under unfair and undemocratic conditions.
The party was officially deregistered, but agreed to register itself and
contest the polls after Thein Sein pushed through changes it sought in the
Zeyar Thaw and Sandar Min said at least three of the
candidates in Naypyitaw faced various obstacles during canvassing, such as
being barred from the use of some venues for mass meetings and having party
Sandar Min said that some villagers who had attended
her meeting were harassed by local authorities.
"We are taking a risk by asking our NLD candidates
to contest from Naypyitaw constituencies. We took the risk because I have faith
in the people of this township," Suu Kyi said to about 2,000 people
gathered at an open field in Zabu Thiri township, which is on the outskirts of
the capital city itself. According to Sandar Min, an estimated 37,000 of about
43,000 eligible voters in Zabu Thiri are civil servants.
"I am surprised to see such a large crowd
here," said Suu Kyi. "I am encouraged and you have raised my
hopes." She was to campaign in the other constituencies on Tuesday.
Zeyar Thaw, 31, a former hip-hop singer who took part
in 2007's Buddhist monk-led mass protests and help found the 'Generation Wave'
student protest group, was arrested in 2008 and serving a six-year prison term
before being released under an amnesty in May 2011. He is contesting the seat
in Pobba Thiri constituency vacated by the Tin Aung Myint Oo, who became vice president.
" I became an activist basically because as a
young person, I wanted to stand against injustice and unfairness," he
said. " I decided to become a politician when I realized that my actions
as an activist could not bring about sufficient and effective results. I
decided that if I want to seriously engage in politics, I should join a
political party and then become a politician."