Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition leader, has hit the campaign trail for the first time in the constituency where she is standing for parliament.
The pro-democracy icon was swarmed by thousands of cheering supporters in Kawhmu, a poor, rural district to the south of Burma's main city, Yangon, the Associated Press reported.
According to Reuters, Suu Kyi's motorcade made the 35-mile trip "weaving through bamboo-hut villages on bumpy, dusty dirt-tracks as farmers and children jostled to catch a glimpse of 'The Lady,' as she is affectionately known."
They waved the flags of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party and photos of Suu Kyi and her father, Burma's independence hero Aung San, according to Britain's Telegraph newspaper.
"The road ahead will be tough," the 66-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told them in a dusty field in the village of Wah Thin Kha, where she will cast a ballot in the April 1 by-election. "But our goal is to achieve peace, stability and development."
She continued: "I acknowledge there are difficulties. But let others know we need the people's support. Let us overcome the hurdles together."
Suu Kyi is contesting the April vote for 48 parliamentary seats vacated by lawmakers from President Thein Sein's military-backed administration, who were appointed to the Cabinet or other posts last year, according to the AP.
The ballot will be a test of the new government's commitment to democratic change after nearly half a century of military rule, the news service wrote.
Burma's junta, which came to power after 2010 elections that Suu Kyi's party boycotted, has embarked on a series of reforms, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, increased press freedoms and signing cease-fire deals with ethnic rebels.
Meantime, the Telegraph cited Western observers as saying the government needed Suu Kyi "on side in order to garner support from Western powers and get the strict economic sanctions they impose lifted."