Detained Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi stepped out of her home in tears on Saturday to greet Buddhist monks marching past the compound where she is confined by the military junta, witnesses said.
Armed guards usually block the road leading to the rambling lakeside house, but in an unprecedented move, they allowed about 1,000 monks to walk past the home where she was been detained for most of the last 18 years.
Under rainy skies, Suu Kyi walked out with two other women and cried as she paid her respects to the monks as they marched past in the mid-afternoon, the witnesses said.
The monks stopped outside her home for about 15 minutes and chanted a Buddhist prayer: "May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from all grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in heart and mind."
The witnesses said she did not appear to speak to the monks, who have been leading a series of protests against the military government since Monday.
About 20 uniformed security police had opened a roadblock near Aung San Suu Kyi's house and did not interrupt the monks as they chanted.
After the monks left, the security officials again closed the roadblock.
The 62-year-old Nobel peace prize winner has virtually no contact with the outside world, apart from a live-in maid and periodic visits from her personal doctor.
In a related development, as many as 10,000 Buddhist monks marched through Myanmar's central city of Mandalay on Saturday, in one of the largest demonstrations against the country's strict military regime since a 1988 democracy uprising, witnesses said.
It was the fifth straight day the monks have marched in Yangon, and the numbers indicated that the anti-government protests were growing.
Emboldened by the monks, about 800 other people walked along with them in the drizzling rain through the heart of Yangon's commercial district.
The monks' activities have given new life to a protest movement that began a month ago after the government raised fuel prices, triggering demonstrations against policies that are causing economic hardship.
Meanwhile, a monks' organisation for the first time urged the public to join in protesting "evil military despotism" in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
"In order to banish the common enemy evil regime from Burmese soil forever, united masses of people need to join hands with the united clergy forces," the All Burma Monks Alliance said in a statement received Saturday. Little is known of the group or its membership, but its communiques have spread widely by word of mouth and through opposition media in exile.