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Video by Gaëlle Faure

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-20

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose latest term of detention was due to expire Saturday, has been released from house arrest and appeared outside her Rangoon home.

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest in the Burmese city of Rangoon Saturday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention, was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters as she appeared outside her crumbling mansion.

She told the jubilant crowd: "We must work together in unison to achieve our goal."

Suu Kyi then retreated back inside her home for the first meeting with her National League for Democracy party in seven years.

Earlier, supporters surged towards her house as security officers took down the barricades that had surrounded the property in the build up to her release.

Suu Kyi's current detention began in May 2003 after her motorcade was set upon by a government-backed mob. Her detention period was extended in August 2009 for a further 18 months after a bizarre incident in which an American swam uninvited to her lakeside home.

The subsequent extension of her arrest sparked international condemnation and ensured that she was unable participate in the recent widely discredited elections, the first in Burma in 20 years. The military junta won the polls in an apparent landslide victory. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party (NLD) was officially disbanded due to its decision to boycott Sunday’s poll.

Nevertheless, her party remains enormously popular as a social movement inside and outside Burma.

Portrait: Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi

This is a real opportunity to review the process, to get the UN to revive talks between Aung San Suu Kyi, the generals and the ethnic groups in the country because that is the way we’re going to get real change there, not through the fake processes introduced by the generals,” Mark Farmaner of Burma Campaign UK told FRANCE 24.

France warns against restrictions on pro-democracy leader

US President Barack Obama and many European leaders welcomed Suu Kyi’s release. "While the Burmese regime has gone to extraordinary lengths to isolate and silence Aung San Suu Kyi, she has continued her brave fight for democracy, peace, and change in Burma," Obama said in a statement, urging the Burmese junta to free all political prisoners.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Burma against any new restrictions on the freedom of movement and expression of the pro-democracy icon.

"France will be extremely attentive to the conditions in which Madame Aung San Suu Kyi enjoys her newfound liberty," Sarkozy said in a statement hailing her release.

British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her freedom was long overdue. "Freedom is Aung San Suu Kyi's right. The Burmese regime must now uphold it," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Obama in calling on the military junta to free all the remaining political prisoners.

"Aung San Sui Kyi is a symbol for the global fight for the realisation of human rights. Her non-violence and relentlessness have turned her into an admired role model," the German government said in a statement.

The ‘illusion of democracy’

But while there was widespread anticipation and excitement over Suu Kyi’s release, Burmese democracy advocates said they had little details of the terms of her release.

Speaking to FRANCE 24, Marie Battini from Info Birmanie, a Paris-based Burmese democracy advocacy group, warned that the military junta was using Suu Kyi’s release as, “a part of a strategy to give the illusion that they’re making a step toward democracy so that the international community will relax the pressure on them and recognise the results of Sunday’s elections.”

A hugely popular symbol of Burma’s democratic aspirations, Suu Kyi is the daughter of General Aung San, Burma’s founding father.

Her political pedigree as well as her sweeping victory in the 1990 election - the results of which were subsequent annulled - has been a thorn in the military junta’s side for decades.

Date created : 2010-11-13


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