It was once just a dot on a map that few outside of Burma ever looked at. Now all eyes are on a dusty string of 100-odd villages that comprise Kawhmu, the constituency from where Aung San Suu Kyi is running for a parliamentary seat after spending the greater part of 22 years under house arrest.
The road south from Rangoon to Kawhmu is new, but the way of life surrounding it is not. Black tarmac cuts a straight line through rice paddies that extend beyond the horizon, where farmers in pastel shirts and traditional loose-fitting longyi robes, bamboo hats protecting them from the baking heat, till emerald stalks.
The dusty road was emblazoned red, as hundreds of supporters lined the tarmac hoping to catch a glimpse of Aung San Suu Kyi as her convoy wove its slow way to Wa Thin Ka, a village 40 miles from Rangoon as the crow flies, but a four-hour drive from where she was sleeping on Saturday.
The villagers made an eclectic, electrifying bunch, sporting Aung San Suu Kyi-emblazoned T-shirts and hats, and holding babies with stickers from her National League for Democracy party on their chubby cheeks.
“I’m so happy she’s here,” said Ney Za Win, 24, selling drinks to a mixture of local residents as well as Burmese and foreign reporters. “Mother Suu has Karen blood, that’s why we love her. I’d never seen foreigners before she came. Now that I’ve seen some, I’m happy.”