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Aung San Suu Kyi takes Myanmar parliamentary oath

The longtime activist, who had been under house arrest for many years, joined her new colleagues in the country's parliament on Wednesday.

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Her comments reflect the dramatic scale of change in the former Burma, given the military's past treatment of Suu Kyi, who was first detained by the army in 1989, and then spent 15 of the next 21 years in detention until her release from house arrest in November 2010.

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Many lawmakers hope Suu Kyi's parliamentary debut will be a catalyst for further reform by the government of President Thein Sein, a former general who has freed hundreds of political prisoners, loosened strict media controls, legalised trade unions and protests, and started a dialogue with ethnic minority rebels.

"Parliament will be stronger because of her good relationship with the international community," said Khin Maung Yi, a lawmaker from the National Democratic Force party. "We parliamentarians have wanted her in the legislature for a long time ... Many laws have to be changed and amended."

Suu Kyi's story of triumph over tragedy began in 1988 when she left her family life in Britain to take care of her dying mother in Yangon. She soon found herself thrust into politics as nationwide protests erupted against the military, addressing crowds of thousands before her 1989 arrest.

A year later, her NLD won 392 of 485 house seats in a rare election, which the regime ignored.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 during the first of three stints under house arrest. Even in her brief periods of freedom, she never left Myanmar, afraid the military would not let her return.

She refused to leave to be with British husband Michael Aris, an Oxford University academic, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died in Britain in 1999.

Four years later she survived an assassination attempt in an attack on her motorcade in which dozens of supporters were killed. This led to another spell in detention ordered by a regime that brutally suppressed dissidents.

But as Myanmar changes, so does Suu Kyi. While her decades of defiance were lauded by the world, her decision to join an imperfect political system has also been saluted by the West, which has started relaxing sanctions.

And her campaign promise to amend the constitution could put her on a collision course with the army. Last week the military filled its 25 percent house quota with higher-ranking officers in an apparent attempt to boost its parliamentary clout.

But even some of Suu Kyi's fierce rivals in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) see her presence as a boon for a parliament with limited powers.

"With Suu Kyi on board, parties will be more diverse, with different perspective and opinions," said Kyaw Soe Lay, a lower house USDP lawmaker. "This works in the interest of those in the parliament."

IN PICTURES: Myanmar Edges into the Open

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