Bagan: Democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi attracted dozens of emotional supporters on Wednesday during her visit to an ancient temple city in central Myanmar, proving her enduring popularity after years in detention.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is on holiday in Bagan, famed for its temple ruins, on her first venture outside her home city of Yangon since being freed by the junta from seven years of house arrest last November.
As the 66-year-old returned to her car after a lunch-time stop with her youngest son and travel companion Kim Aris, she was greeted by a spontaneous crowd of about 150 supporters, some of them openly weeping.
"Thank you very much," a smiling Suu Kyi told her admirers, as she signed autographs, including on some T-shirts, and posed for photographs.
"I will try to come back," she added, before retiring to her hotel. Earlier, she and Aris, 33, who was born in Britain, had been sightseeing in nearby Mount Popa and toured a local museum.
Suu Kyi has refrained from making political comments during her trip, which began on Monday, in an apparent attempt not to antagonise government figures, who have warned they can`t guarantee her safety on her travels.
Her earlier plan to launch a political tour prompted a demand from the regime for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to stay out of politics, and a warning that "chaos and riots" could ensue if she went ahead.
That tour has been delayed until the weather conditions are right, Suu Kyi said last week. Plain-clothes police have been following her every move throughout her current trip, although it is described as a private visit.
Security is a major concern after Suu Kyi`s convoy was attacked in 2003 during a political tour, in an ambush apparently organised by a regime frightened by her popularity.
Observers said that any activity that puts Suu Kyi in contact with the people of Myanmar could have repercussions.
Her NLD party won a landslide election victory in 1990 that was never recognised by the junta, and the party was disbanded by the military rulers last year because it boycotted a November election, saying rules were unfair.
The junta`s political proxies claimed an overwhelming victory in the poll, which was marred by widespread complaints of cheating and intimidation.