Burma releases democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

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Burma’s military junta on Saturday released pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest to cheers from overjoyed supporters and cautious optimism from the international community.

Early on Saturday, Mrs. Suu Kyi’s supporters, diplomats, reporters and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party gathered outside her home in Rangoon as rumors swirled that the junta had sanctioned her release.

An NLD official told The Washington Times that the crowds swelled as the first barricade was removed from in front of Mrs. Suu Kyi’s residence.

“If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal. We have a lot of things to do,” Mrs. Suu Kyi, 65, told the crowd in Burmese upon her release, according to the Associated Press.

She told her supporters they would see her again at the NLD headquarters on Sunday.

Mrs. Suu Kyi will hold a press conference at noon in Rangoon on Sunday.

President Obama described Mrs. Suu Kyi as “a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world.”

“Whether Aung San Suu Kyi is living in the prison of her house, or the prison of her country, does not change the fact that she, and the political opposition she represents, has been systematically silenced, incarcerated, and deprived of any opportunity to engage in political processes that could change Burma,” Mr. Obama said.

“It is time for the Burmese regime to release all political prisoners, not just one. The United States looks forward to the day when all of Burma’s people are free from fear and persecution,” he added.

According to human rights groups, there are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described Mrs. Suu Kyi’s detention as a “travesty” and welcomed her release as “long overdue.”

“Freedom is Aung San Suu Kyi’s right. The Burmese regime must now uphold it,” Mr. Cameron said.

Mrs. Suu Kyi’s release comes one week after Burma held its first elections in 20 years. Critics say the vote was rigged in favor of the military-backed parties. The NLD won the last election by a majority but was not allowed to govern and its leaders were detained by the military.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is “deeply regrettable” that Mrs. Suu Kyi was effectively excluded from participating in the Nov. 7 elections.

The NLD was dissolved ahead of the elections, and Mrs. Suu Kyi was barred for participating in the contest.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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