A speech planned by pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi along her campaign trail has been blocked by the Burmese government and forced to move to a less prominent location.
Her speech was meant to be held at the Irrawaddy Division’s Pyarpon town football stadium, but was forced to move to a field nearby after an intervention by the Burmese government’s Sports Minister.
Locals said government workers in the town were told by authorities not to welcome or greet Suu Kyi when she arrived in town. Suu Kyi criticised the government’s intervention as a restriction on her freedom to campaign.
Thein Swe, a member of the National League of Democracy (NLD) in Pyarpon, said the event was moved to an open field about two miles from the stadium, which meant some townspeople and residents were unable to attend.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gave a [brief] speech in front of the NLD’s office in Pyarpon and a crowd started to gather. After that, we told the crowd she was going to give a public speech at the plain in the north [of the town] and asked if they wanted to come – they all said they’ll come. But there were some people who couldn’t come so [Daw Suu] gave a farewell speech to them and then we moved to the field and everyone came along.”
Another local said: “The whole town was completely packed – everyone was waving [NLD] flags and marched on to listen to Daw Suu’s speech.”
“Aunty also said in her speech that young students were not allowed to leave their classrooms [to greet her] but they were all looking out to their classrooms and waving to her. She said she was happy to learn even young students are strong spirited in democracy. She also mentioned that blocking her from using the football [stadium] was against democratic standards and that she would report it to the UEC in accordance with the law,” added a local reporter.
The NLD is contesting 48 open Parliamentary seats in the upcoming by-elections on April 1. The international community has insisted that the elections must be free and fair, before considering easing further sanctions against the former military dictatorship.
Before arriving in Pyarpon, Suu Kyi travelled through Kyeikhtaw village in Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township, where she is a candidate.