Suu Kyi Freed


At the end of her latest detention term, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is free from being a prisoner in her own home.

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed from house arrest and she immediately told her supporters to unite in her struggle to bring freedom to her reclusive country. 

After hearing of her release from the ruling military junta, the beaming 65-year-old opposition leader appeared outside her dilapidated lakeside mansion in the former capital Rangoon and waved to thousands of jubilant supporters.

Resplendent in a traditional lilac dress, Suu Kyi briefly spoke to her supporters amid loud cheers, her close aide and prominent opposition politician Win Tin told RFA.

Police have removed the traditional barricades from around her villa that had kept the people away during her detention.

"Unity is important for us to move ahead," she said after tasting freedom for the first time in seven and a half years, her latest term of house arrest.

The Nobel laureatte has spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention, being a thorn on the side of the military generals, who have ruled the country for half a century.

"Don't stay silent"

Suu Kyi appeared defiant and showed no signs she will relent in her struggle to bring democracy to her country even after the junta banned her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

“Please be quiet. If you keep quiet now, you will hear me," she told the crowd, struggling to make herself heard. 

"There is a time to speak up but not now," she said. "Make sure you don’t stay silent when the time comes for your voice to be heard,” Suu Kyi told the crowd of mostly NLD supporters and ordinary citizens -- young and old.

Several in the crowd replied, "Sure! Don’t worry! We are the people."

Suu Kyi thanked them for the support and told those in the front of the crowd to pass on her message to those who could not hear her.

"The political lesson has begun even at this earlier stage,” she said, laughing. The people cheered, waving posters and photographs of her. Some carried flowers.

Suu Kyi took a flower from a supporter and placed it in her hair.

She would appear in front of the NLD headquarters on Sunday and speak to supporters, Win Tin said. The NLD central executive committee members held talks with her at her residence late Saturday.

Suu Kyi also spoke by telephone with her younger of two sons in neighboring Thailand.  Kim Aris was trying to get a visa to visit his mother for the first time in 10 years. He lives in Britain and has been repeatedly denied visas.

Security was mostly tight in Rangoon.

"Subversive elements"

Suu Kyi's house arrest was extended in August last year over a bizarre incident in which an American swam uninvited to her lakeside home. A court found she had broken a law protecting the state against "subversive elements."

When she was last released in 2002, she drew huge crowds wherever she went.

Her release Saturday came at a critical juncture, as a new government has not yet been formed since the Nov. 7 elections, the first in two decades.

In 1990 elections, the party of Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero General Aung San, swept to victory but it was not allowed to take power.

The NLD was disbanded by the junta for boycotting last week's elections, which critics say was marked by fraud and other irregularities aimed at keeping the military in power.

In the latest polls, the pro-junta political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), secured a majority of seats in both houses of Parliament, according to the latest official results.

A senior junta official said there were no strings attached to Suu Kyi's release.

"She is completely free -- there are no conditions at all," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

World hails release

World leaders welcomed Suu Kyi's new found freedom but asked the junta to release the remaining more than 2,000 political prisoners.

"The United States welcomes her long overdue release," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement, calling Suu Kyi "a hero of mine." "It is time for the Burmese regime to release all political prisoners, not just one."

British Prime Minister David Cameron also said her freedom was long overdue. "Freedom is Aung San Suu Kyi's right. The Burmese regime must now uphold it," he said, according to foreign news ageny reports.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Suu Kyi's "dignity and courage in the face of injustice have been an inspiration to many people around the world."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “any obstacle to her freedom of movement or expression would constitute a new and unacceptable denial of her rights."

Human rights groups also welcomed Suu Kyi's release but some remained suspicious over the junta's motives.

"She should not have been under arrest in the first place," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International's director of advocacy. "Obviously, we are going to push for the release of the remaining political prisoners and urge the junta to stop all human rights abuses in the country, including against minority ethnic groups."

Freedom Now President Jared Genser said Suu Kyi's release alone was "virtually meaningless until the junta enters into an irreversible process of dialogue resulting in national reconciliation between the junta, the NLD, and ethnic groups and a restoration of democracy to Burma."

Reported by Khin Maung Soe in Washington and a reporter in Rangoon for Radio Free Asia's Burmese service. Translated by Khin Maung Soe. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.