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Aung San Suu Kyi Released *updated*

November 13, 2010

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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.

[snip]

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.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    November 13, 2010 12:11 pm

    Talk about walking the walk, Aung San Suu Kyi was separated from her husband and two sons when she was placed under house arrest in 1989.. Her husband later developed terminal prostate cancer. The Burmese regime wouldn’t grant him a visa to visit her but said she could leave to see him. She realized they would never let her return, and refused, so never saw her husband alive again. She hasn’t seen her
    children in over 20 years.

    • November 13, 2010 1:02 pm

      Yes, she is truly amazing. Some of us just talk about justice, democracy and peace, she puts her freedom and even her life on the line for it. Liu Xiaobo of China also comes to mind. At times like this I look at the US and how so many people take voting for granted. It also makes me feel like some of my day to day concerns are rather petty. There are people throughout the world who are simply trying to get basic human rights.

      Throughout this decades-long ordeal she has demonstrated an unbelievable dignity and compassion- whenever she speaks there is never the slightest hint of hatred, even towards those who have treated her, her family and her followers so horribly. Same thing goes for the compassion of the exiled Dalai Lama.

      • discourseincsharpminor permalink
        November 13, 2010 1:50 pm

        “Throughout this decades-long ordeal she has demonstrated an unbelievable dignity and compassion- whenever she speaks there is never the slightest hint of hatred, even towards those who have treated her, her family and her followers so horribly. Same thing goes for the compassion of the exiled Dalai Lama.”

        I completely agree. She is an amazing person. I hope that the fact that this is a political stunt by the junta doesn’t mean a quick rearrest. I’ve often wondered why the situation in Burma has never gotten much notice here in the US. I mean, full throated support of people being denied basic rights, the democracy they want, and full religious freedom is usually the kind of cause the US takes on. I’m not taking about sending in the army, mind you, I’m just saying why aren’t we as vocal about this as we are about other human rights violators like, say, Iran.

      • Thain permalink
        November 13, 2010 8:38 pm

        The Dalai Lama rocks! A Nobel Peace Prize winner and Obama makes him use a back door to enter the WH and won’t meet with him in the Oval Office because it might upset China. The Dalai Lama EARNED his Nobel Prize!

  2. November 13, 2010 2:44 pm

    @discourse- you’ve hit on something I harp on a lot here and its something which causes a lot of people to criticize me- our new-found interest in human rights in Iran is sort of similar to our interest in democracy and human rights in Iraq in 2002 and 2003- at times it sounds more like political expedience. We currently have Iran in our cross hairs (largely due to constant pressure from Israel) and some want us to go to war with them so thus suddenly we are concerned about their human rights. It’s not like Iran suddenly became oppressive or suddenly started to say stupid, hateful things about Israel- they’ve been doing that for decades. But in the past we’ve done business with Iran and of course, we helped overthrow their govt and placed the US puppet, the Shah of Iran, in power- he was an autocratic, oppressive leader who spent lavishly on himself and tortured and imprisoned his political opponents- but that was all fine with us because he was pro-US, kept the oil flowing and kept his mouth shut about not liking Israel. Same thing goes with Iraq- we didn’t mind Saddam’s deplorable human rights abuses when he was our buddy and fighting Iran.

    I’m not saying there aren’t people who truly care about the rights of Iranian citizens in the US government and I have no doubt that Secretary Clinton truly cares. But U.S. foreign policy and the use of military might is based more on pragmatism and securing resources than on ideals, for better or worse. This is nothing new, even going back to WWII- unfortunately, the plight of the Jews was not our utmost concern at the time- we were extremely worried about Japanese aggression and Germany taking over all of Europe. When I was young I thought we went to war with Germany because of the concentration camps. I was disappointed to learn otherwise.

    It’s much easier, politically, to speak out against countries like Iran, Venezuela and Cuba than countries like Saudi Arabia, China and Colombia.

    It’s also very easy for me to sit here safe and sound in front of a computer, with Scooter on my lap, and be a Monday morning quarterback and be critical of US policy in the above areas because I am not in the difficult position of having to balance all these countervailing interests, like Secretary Clinton has to do every day. So I do understand that. But there are times I wish we would be a bit more consistent in our human rights policies in order to maintain international (and national) credibility. Of course, with GW Bush running around bragging about the use of torture, international credibility on human rights is going to be harder to come by.

  3. November 13, 2010 2:46 pm

    This was wonderful news to read today. Aung San Suu Kyi is an extraordinarily courageous, committed woman. Burma’s Junta is as oppressive as any regime in the world. They do not receive remotely the attention from the US that Iran does. And now that multiple stories have emerged that Burma is seeking nuclear technology, the US is downplaying it.

    I vote in elections, and it is sad to see such a high % of Americans who don’t vote. All over the world, people are willing to be imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the right to vote and to have that vote count. IMHO, our government is in the hands of corporate and military-industrial control and our mainstream press is hopelessly biased (not towards either party but towards maintaining the status quo), but it is only by voting and becoming engaged that this can change, short of a major calamity. And we don’t want that…

    • November 13, 2010 8:34 pm

      Agreed. The thing is, our media coverage in this country is really not so good when it comes to foreign affairs. Even when we are in the midst of two wars, sometimes you just don’t see any MSM coverage unless something controversial happens to bring it back into the news. I think a lot of Americans just aren’t all that interested in what is going on in other areas of the world. That doesn’t seem to be the case in many other countries- their coverage seems much more thorough.

  4. Sophie permalink
    November 13, 2010 9:41 pm

    I am so glad she was released today. I was surprised because I hadn’t heard that that was even being planned. I just hope they don’t re-arrest her b/c I read that that’s what they have done in the past.

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