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Aung San Suu Kyi hits the campaign trail in Myanmar (+video)

Crowds of supporters enthusiastically greeted Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, some up since dawn to catch a glimpse of her on her first official campaign trip.

By Correspondent / February 7, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's opposition leader, greets supporters during her one-day trip to Pathein, the regional capital of the rice-growing Irrawaddy region on the southern coast on Tuesday.

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

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Pathein, Myanmar

Tens of thousands of Burmese came out today to greet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her first campaign trip since becoming an official candidate for April's parliamentary elections.

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In another example of the loosening-up in the long-time military-ruled country, neither the iconic opposition leader nor the crowds in two towns in the south she visited appeared to meet any hindrance from authorities.

It was her first time in the region in more than 20 years and comes on the heels of a spate of reforms by Myanmar's government, including the mass release of hundreds of political prisoners and the loosening of restrictions on the press.

IN PICTURES: Aung Sung Suu Kyi

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi told a raucous crowd estimated at more than 40,000 in Pathein, the regional capital of the rice-growing Irrawaddy region on the southern coast, that if elected to parliament – the same parliament she once boycotted after being prevented from running for office – she believed she could help “make changes in the constitution, to have the rule of law and to work for internal peace.”

The assembled Burmese bellowed “Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!”

Earlier Tuesday morning, during the four hour road trip from Yangon to Pathein, Aung San Suu Kyi's cortege was repeatedly mobbed by party supporters waving the party's peacock-emblazoned red flag. Women, their faces whitened by thanaka paste – a Burmese makeup made from ground-up bark – emerged from their brown and gray timber/bamboo huts nestled under dew-covered green palms by the roadside to wave and greet the opposition leader.

Throughout the day-long trip, as the sun rose high and hot to burn off the thick dawn mist shrouding the ricefields along the pock-marked roadway, the opposition leader repeatedly emerging through her 4x4 sunroof to shake hands with supporters and accept garlands of roses from them.

For long-repressed Myanmar (Burma), it was a rare chance to see the country's best-known political icon. For Aung San Suu Kyi, it was an opportunity to test her much-vaunted popularity ahead of the upcoming elections.

“We have not seen The Lady [a popular local nickname for Aung San Suu Kyi] here in more than 20 years,” says Kyaw Win, as he links arms with other local volunteers in Pathein to prevent the eager, surging crowd from swarming Aung San Suu Kyi's vehicle.

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