Burma democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's devoted followers are expected to turn out by the thousands today to hear her speak in an Indiana city where one of the largest Burmese communities in the United States has taken root. The visit by the 67-year-old Nobel laureate, who spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing military rule, marks the zenith of a two-decade influx of Burmese refugees that has brought a new global awareness to Fort Wayne, Ind., a city of 256,000.
At least 7,000 people from as far away as Toronto and Minneapolis have indicated they'll attend the speech. The visit is part of a 17-day trip to the US during which she has met with President Obama and received the Congressional Gold Medal. Since 1991, when a single Burmese refugee resettled in this city, thousands more have followed, many of them relocating under a federal program after years in refugee camps in Thailand. From this unlikely base, Suu Kyi's followers speak out about what's happening in their homeland. "They cannot talk in (Burma), so we talk for them here," says an activist.