YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's state media warned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday that her plans to travel outside Yangon to meet supporters could trigger riots.
A commentary in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper also drew attention to the status of her National League for Democracy, which was deregistered as a party last year by the government but still operates as a nationwide organization.
The commentary, published in all three state-run daily newspapers, appeared to reflect government anxiety over Suu Kyi's plans to travel to other areas of the country. The state press serves as a mouthpiece for the government, which otherwise makes few public announcements. No date has been announced for Suu Kyi's travel.
Suu Kyi drew large crowds when she last made a trip to the countryside in 2003, and her popularity badly rattled the then-military government. Supporters of the junta ambushed her entourage as it toured northern Myanmar, killing several of her followers. She escaped but was detained. There were suspicions that the attack was organized by the army, which denied involvement.
Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last November after Myanmar held general elections that her party boycotted. Its failure to reregister for the polls led to its being officially disbanded as a party.
"We are deeply concerned that if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi makes trips to countryside regions, there may be chaos and riots, as evidenced by previous incidents," the commentary said. "The government has said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is just an ordinary public member, so it will not restrict her from traveling and doing things in accordance with the law, but she shall honor the laws for the rule of law." Daw is an honorific used for older women.
Critics of the new nominally civilian government say its commitment to reform will be judged partly on whether it allows her freedom of movement. U.S. Sen. John McCain said earlier this month that he raised the issue of Suu Kyi's safety during a meeting with senior Myanmar government officials.
The commentary chastised Suu Kyi's party for not taking part in the elections and accused it of "trying to politically test the patience of the government that shows its benevolent attitude by not taking action against it."
Tin Myint, a member of the National League for Democracy, said the commentary indicates the government is afraid of Suu Kyi's popularity.
"We are even more worried about the security of Daw Suu because of the government warning," he said. Some party members fear the government will close party offices, especially outside Yangon, because the commentary indicated it had a legal basis to do so.