12 Feb 2012

Crowds cheer return of Aung San Suu Kyi

9:15 am on 12 February 2012

Crowds of cheering supporters in rural Myanmar have turned out to welcome opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she campaigns in by-elections scheduled for later this year.

Ms Suu Kyi is standing in the constituency of Kawhmu and was released from house arrest shortly after parliamentary elections in 2010.

The government has promised that all candidates will be able to campaign freely, the BBC reports.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party (NLD) had won a landslide victory in elections in 1990 but was never allowed by the military junta to take power.

She spent most of the two decades from 1990 to 2010 under house arrest.

In all, 48 seats are being contested in the by-elections and the vote is scheduled for 1 April.

Even if the NLD wins all the seats, it cannot threaten the military-backed government's hold on power. The party boycotted the elections in 2010.

However, the vote in April has enormous symbolic importance.

As a result of changes taking place in Myanmar, the United States has lifted one of its sanctions to allow the delivery of limited technical assistance from international financial institutions.