Rangoon: Hundreds of angry farmers heckled and walked out on Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese politician and Nobel laureate, during a visit on Thursday to villages in central Myanmar that might be displaced by a copper mine.
The hostile reception, a stark contrast to the adoring crowds that greeted her after her release from house arrest more than two years ago, underscores the rockiness of her transition from international symbol to elected official.
Frustration with her has been building from groups in the country who say she often sides with the establishment, including the powerful military, that held her for most of two decades and brutalized the country for five.
“All we had to eat was boiled rice when we voted for you,” said Daw Pu, a farmer who confronted Ms Suu Kyi on Thursday. “But you are not standing with us anymore.”
Significant in a country where ethnicity normally carries major weight, the villagers were from her own ethnic group, the majority Burman.
They have been protesting the expansion of the mine, which would force them off their land. Ms Suu Kyi traveled to the area in an attempt to persuade the farmers to cease their protests and make way for the mine, which is partly owned by the Myanmar military.
Ms Suu Kyi remains widely admired in the country, formerly known as Burma, for her stubborn campaign against military rule and her sacrifices during her years of house arrest. But in recent months she has alienated some supporters with public expressions of admiration for the military and silence on the army’s shelling and airstrikes against the Kachin ethnic minority group.
The standoff over the mine has attracted national attention partly because it has come to symbolise widespread land seizures in Myanmar. The issue, a major problem for the civilian government of President Thein Sein, pits destitute farmers against powerful interests, including the military and their favored businessmen.
Before she left the area on Thursday, Ms Suu Kyi was asked by reporters to comment on the hostile reaction she received.
“I have never done anything just for popularity,” she said. “Sometimes politicians have to do things that people dislike.”