Thousands Welcome Suu Kyi’s Chin State Visit

By Zarni Mann 6 January 2014

KALAY MYO, Sagaing Division — Thousands of supporters greeted National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrived in this small town in Sagaing Division on Monday to begin a visit to neighboring Chin State.

Suu Kyi is visiting Chin State, the country’s poorest state, for the first time in a decade to speak to the public about constitutional reform.

“I do not want to push the people to do this or that. That’s why it’s really important for them to understand why the Constitution must be amended. That’s the reason I’m here,” she said from her hotel balcony in Kalay Myo, speaking to the crowd below.

“Mother Suu, be healthy and be president in 2015,” one supporter yelled. Fans wearing NLD stickers and holding NLD flags lined the road from the airport to her hotel, including some wearing traditional Chin clothing and performing traditional dances.

During her stay in Kalay Myo, Suu Kyi will meet with her party members and attend a religious ceremony at a private school on Tuesday before continuing on to Chin State.

“We are so happy to meet her again. Her trip to our region gives us hope for the upcoming election in 2015,” Myint Swe, a central executive committee member of the NLD in Kalay District, told The Irrawaddy.

“This is the first time in 10 years that the region has gotten a chance to meet with her, and we are honored. I believe Daw Suu is visiting Chin State because it is the poorest state, and she is interested in promoting development.”

Tu Ngai, 56, an ethnic Chin living in Kalay, said she was grateful for an opportunity to see the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, saying, “I hope she will bring good luck to our Chin State, and I hope she can speak up to help our people and our state.”

Suu Kyi’s visit to Chin State will begin in the town of Tedim, where she will meet with members of the public and spend the night. She is also scheduled to meet with supporters in Falam city and Hakha, the state capital, before returning to Kalay Myo and departing the region.

The opposition leader has been calling for constitutional reform since joining Parliament in 2012. She has expressed ambitions to become the country’s next president but is currently ineligible due to a restrictive clause in the 2008 charter, which was written by the former regime.

Suu Kyi last traveled to Kalay District shortly before she and her supporters were attacked in 2003 by a pro-junta armed group while traveling in a convoy through Kyee village, Sagaing Division. Suu Kyi escaped but activists say that about 70 people lost their lives in the attack, which has since become known as the Depayin massacre.