Aung San Suu Kyi Released *updated*
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Finally a little bit of good news as word came down of political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi’s release early this morning:
Myanmar’s ruling military junta released democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest Saturday to a throng of supporters trying to reach out and shake her hand.
“I’m very happy to see you all again,” she told the crowd gathered near her lakeside home in Yangon.
More supporters waited at the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest for her dogged opposition to authoritarian military rule in the nation formerly known as Burma.
Recently, she had little outside human contact except for two maids and visits from her doctor. Sometimes, she spoke to supporters over the wall of her compound.
Suu Kyi’s opposition party won the 1990 elections by a landslide but the regime never recognized those results. The election Sunday was the first since then but Suu Kyi was barred from participating because of a recent conviction.
The ruling military junta has been slowly releasing official election results, but critics say a victory for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party is all but certain.
The Burma Campaign UK, which promotes human rights in Myanmar, accused the ruling junta of rigging the November 7 election. The group welcomed Suu Kyi’s release but warned that it should not be interpreted as a sign that democratic reform is on the way.
“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is about public relations, not democratic reform,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK.
“I am thrilled to see our democracy leader free at last, but the release is not part of any political process, instead it is designed to get positive publicity for the dictatorship after the blatant rigging of elections on 7th November,” Phan said. [emphasis added]
That last highlighted bit is true- while her release is certainly welcomed, it has nothing to do with democracy. The ruling junta waited until after the sham elections to release her. Nonetheless, she deserves her freedom, as do all political prisoners (*cough* China *cough*).
I’m expecting that we will see a statement released by Secretary Clinton shortly.
UPDATE: Yup, here is her statement, just released:
Today I join with billions of people around the world to welcome the long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi has endured enormous personal sacrifice in her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to Burma, including unjustified detention for most of the past twenty years. The Burmese regime has repeatedly rejected her offers to engage in dialogue and work together, trying instead to silence and isolate her. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi’s commitment to the Burmese people has not wavered.
The United States calls on Burma’s leaders to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is unconditional so that she may travel, associate with her fellow citizens, express her views, and participate in political activities without restriction. They should also immediately and unconditionally release all of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners.
We urge Burma’s leaders to break from their repressive policies and begin an inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders towards national reconciliation and a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.