Myanmar's Suu Kyi pays tribute to hero father

YANGON - Democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi attended a memorial for her father, Myanmar's independence hero General Aung San, for the first time in nine years on Tuesday amid tight security.

The 66-year-old, who was released from house arrest after controversial elections last November, laid baskets of yellow and red roses at the Martyrs' Day ceremony in the capital Yangon.

A heavy police presence surrounded the remembrance day memorial, which marks the assassination of her father and several other independence leaders on July 19, 1947.

Suu Kyi attended the ceremony - led by Yangon's mayor and attended by government officials and soldiers - for the first time since 2002, the year before her latest stint under house arrest began.

Wearing a traditional black longyi - a wrapped skirt - and white blouse, the Nobel Peace Prize winner appeared only briefly at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Myanmar's main city.

She is expected to return later in the day with supporters from her National League for Democracy (NLD), and by mid-morning about 400 activists had already gathered outside the party's headquarters.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Suu Kyi planned to lead a group to the memorial site at about noon (1.30pm Singapore Time).

"We are just going to mark the remembrance day, which is an unforgettable event," he said.

Suu Kyi's invitation to the memorial came shortly after she tested the boundaries of her freedom with her first trip outside Yangon.

During the four-day excursion to the ancient city of Bagan earlier this month, she refrained from any overt political activities that might have antagonised the military-dominated government.

The NLD, which won a landslide election victory two decades ago that was never recognised by the junta, was disbanded by the military rulers last year because it boycotted the November vote, saying the rules were unfair.

Suu Kyi has spent much of the last 20 years as a prisoner in her crumbling lakeside mansion and some observers believe the new government would have no qualms about limiting her freedom again if she is perceived as a threat.

Part of the democracy icon's potency as a campaigner for political freedom stems from Myanmar's reverence for her father.

General Aung San is widely loved for winning independence from the British, but he died a year before colonial separation. The country was soon plunged into nearly half a century of junta rule from 1962.