Mar 13 - Merchandise bearing the once-banned image of activist Aung San Suu Kyi is a hot seller in a Myanmar market ahead of elections. Lindsey Parietti reports.
Once banned, the image of a popular Myanmar activist now adorns t-shirts, pendants and posters. It fills local markets, even eclipsing the likenesses of Western stars. Aung San Suu Kyi has become a celebrity in her own right, drawing huge crowds as she tours the country ahead of elections. Until recent democratic reforms, military rulers banned her image and restricted her movement. Shop owners say sales have climbed as much as 400 percent since they began selling Suu Kyi merchandise. (SOUNDBITE) (Burmese) OWNER OF TET LAN T-SHIRT PRINTING, DAW BABY, SAYING: "Of course we wanted to sell them, but we didn't do it because we were not allowed. We just did what was allowed and the business was not very good. Now there is more freedom and the business is very good, so I think there are signs of improvement for the country." Suu Kyi's party the National League for Democracy is fielding 48 candidates for the by-elections on April 1. She is running for a seat in Kawhmu village outside Yangon. (SOUNDBITE) (Burmese) 18-YEAR-OLD SOPHOMORE UNIVERSITY STUDENT, ZAW WIN HTWE SAYING: "I really love Mother Su. And I believe there is a great prospect for our country's future." The country's fledgling and nominally civilian government has recently freed political prisoners, loosened censorship and promised fair elections. The upcoming vote will test both Suu Kyi's party and the government's commitment to reform. Lindsey Parietti, Reuters