Rousing welcome for Myanmar's Suu Kyi in Nepal

AFP , Saturday 14 Jun 2014

Supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party cheer holding a portrait of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they watch increasing votes on a screen at the roof of the NLD office in Yangon April 1, 2012. Myanmar voted on Sunday in its third election in half a century. (Photo:Reuters)

Hundreds of supporters thronged Kathmandu's airport Friday to welcome Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she visited Nepal for the first time since a stint as a schoolteacher four decades ago.

Suu Kyi, 68, was released from years of house arrest in 2010, and a quasi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein has since pushed reforms that have ended sanctions and overturned Myanmar's status as a global pariah.

The former political prisoner-turned-politician was greeted by Nepal's minister for forest and soil conservation, Mahesh Acharya, as hundreds of well-wishers waved Nepalese and Burmese flags and held up banners featuring her photographs.

Supporters chanted "Long Live Aung San Suu Kyi" and "Welcome to Nepal" as the Nobel Peace Prize winner smiled and waved to them before leaving the airport.

Suu Kyi, who is on a four-day visit to Nepal, will meet Prime Minister Sushil Koirala later on Friday before being awarded the country's top peace prize by President Ram Baran Yadav.

She will address parliament on Saturday and tour the Buddha's birthplace, Lumbini, on Sunday.

Suu Kyi first visited the Himalayan nation as a teenager in 1962, when her mother was ambassador to India and Nepal.

She then moved to Kathmandu in 1973 with her husband, British scholar Michael Aris, and their baby boy Alexander, and taught English at a local school for several months.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party plans to contest elections next year, hoping to repeat a sweeping 1990 victory that was ignored by the former junta.

However, her desire to seek the presidency remains blocked by a constitutional clause widely believed to target her, which bars anyone with a foreign spouse or children from taking the position.

Since entering parliament two years ago, she has campaigned to amend the 2008 charter, which also reserves a quarter of seats in parliament for unelected military personnel, granting the army a significant political role despite the end of outright junta rule.

Short link: