Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi cheered by crowds in Kawhmu

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Media captionBurmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has begun campaigning for the first time in the constituency where she is standing for election to parliament.

Crowds of cheering supporters in rural Burma have turned out to welcome opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her first campaign stop ahead of by-elections scheduled for April.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is standing in the constituency of Kawhmu, was released from house arrest shortly after parliamentary elections in 2010.

Her party won a landslide victory in elections in 1990 but was never allowed by the military junta to take power.

In all, 48 seats are being contested.

Meanwhile, an activist monk who led an uprising in 2007 has been released after briefly being detained by the authorities.

Shin Gambira had been taken from a monastery in Rangoon early on Friday morning, his brother told the BBC.

He was jailed in December 2007 for 68 years but freed last month as part of an amnesty for political prisoners.

Symbolic importance

Since the military formally handed power to a civilian administration last year, Burma has made significant changes. It has released hundreds of prisoners, signed a ceasefire in a long-running insurgency, and eased restrictions on freedom of expression and trade unions.

Supporters waved the flag of the National League for Democracy (NLD) as Ms Suu Kyi arrived in Kawhmu on Saturday.

"We warmly welcome mother Suu!" and "Long live Daw [Aunt] Aung San Suu Kyi!" they shouted.

Ms Suu Kyi spent most of the two decades from 1990 to 2010 under house arrest.

Even if the NLD wins all 48 seats, it cannot threaten the military-backed government's hold on power. The party boycotted the 2010 elections.

However, April's vote has enormous symbolic importance.

As a result of the changes taking place in Burma, the US has lifted one of its sanctions to allow the delivery of limited technical assistance from international financial institutions.