Free at last
Yangon, November 13
Even as the world hailed her release from ‘house arrest’, sceptics kept their fingers crossed. Her freedom could well be short-lived, judging by how her detention was extended arbitrarily last year on the charge of sheltering an American for two days at her lake side home. She is still seen as a threat by the military because of her mass appeal and charisma. The first signs of resistance or mobilisation by her supporters could prompt the junta to confine her once again.
The pro-democracy campaigner, a prisoner of conscience, Suu Kyi is a powerful symbol against oppression and has spent the last 15 of the 21 years under ‘house arrest’ with severe restrictions on her contacts with the outside world. While she steadfastly opposed military rule in Myanmar, the junta in power called her a traitor and a stooge of Britain and the United States. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Known simply as "The Lady" by millions of her countrymen, the slightly built and soft-spoken 65 year old refuses to give up on the resource-rich country. "For me, real freedom is freedom from fear and unless you can live free from fear you cannot live a dignified human life," she once said.
Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won the country's last elections, in 1990, by a landslide, but was never allowed to govern. After deciding not to contest the next election, the first one in 20 years, held on last Sunday, her party was disbanded by the junta. She was due to be released on May 27 last year. That changed when an American intruder swam to her lakeside home just weeks before she was to be freed, claiming God had sent him to warn her she would be the target of an assassination plot. She was sentenced to house arrest the following August for allowing the intruder, John Yettaw, to stay two nights, which was deemed to be an infringement of security laws. She was last freed in May 2002 and immediately travelled across the country to meet supporters, drawing huge crowds -- and increasing hostility from backers of the military government. Since major surgery in September 2003, she has been confined to her home on Yangon's University Avenue, a prisoner in all but name, without the use of a telephone and with her visitors restricted.
In her first address to pro-democracy protesters from the steps of historic Shwedagon Pagoda in 1988 she told the huge crowd, “I could not, as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on.” — Reuters
India hails Suu Kyi’s release
New Delhi, November 13
"India welcomes the release of Suu Kyi. We hope that this will be the beginning of the process of reconciliation in Myanmar," External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.
"We have always encouraged them (military rulers in Myanmar) to take this process forward in a broad-based and inclusive manner. In this context, as a close neighbour of Myanmar, we are confident that the release of Suu Kyi will contribute to efforts for a more inclusive approach to political change and reforms," the minister said in a statement read out to the media.