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‘Today’s the day’ to free Suu Kyi, almost

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has met diplomats at her home in Rangoon today, and supporters have gathered expecting her freedom.

She was understood to be demanding an unconditional release, but the regime was attempting to restrict her ability to travel around the country and limit her freedom to meet supporters, the London Guardian reported early this evening.

monk-walk-nldSources in the opposition party said that authorities signed her letter of release around 2:45 p.m., but details of the letter and when the junta would allow her to appear in public were unknown.

At the time of reporting, she had not yet left her house but people were still waiting.

Freedom after spending most of the past 20 years without it has become a definite prospect for the daughter of Burma’s independence leader General Aung San. Suu Kyi’s current house arrest term was to end tomorrow but reports and witnesses in Rangoon outside her home where her current sentence has kept her for the past 18 months suggest, suggested today is the day.

As many as 1,000 supporters from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s youth wing, in T-shirts bearing Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait and holding aloft her pictures, have gathered in front of NLD headquarters in Bahan Township, Rangoon, waiting for her release, witnesses said. A banner reading “Today’s the day” adorns the entrance.

However, as dark fell, an NLD leader told supporters to return home. Ohn Kyaing, a National League for Democracy spokesman, said: “Even if Aung San Suu Kyi is released today, she will not come to the party headquarters. If so, she will come tomorrow. We told party members and her supporters to return home and come back … tomorrow, because she has yet to be released.”

Across town, a crowd of at least 300 journalists and well-wishers also built up at a junction near her home on University Avenue, Rangoon. Witnesses said a few foreign diplomats’ vehicles had left her compound this afternoon, and told of an increase in security forces in the area.

Speculation over Suu Kyi’s freedom a day early has spread throughout Burmese political circles inside and outside the country. Her name was also the one of the most discussed worldwide topics on social-networking site Twitter. She had expressed the wish to set up a Twitter account on her release. She has spent about 15 years out of the last 21 years under house arrest and her connection with world media has been through BBC and Voice of America radio broadcasts.

An early spur for public hopes of her release was the news that her youngest son “Kim” Htein Lin was in Rangoon after being granted a visa to visit Burma this week, witnesses said. He has not seen his mother for almost 10 years.

The junta justified her current detention by sentencing Suu Kyi to three years in prison for “entertaining” uninvited guest, US citizen John Yettaw, in 2008. Junta leader Than Shwe, under intense international pressure, ordered the Insein Prison court to commute the sentence to 18 months and that it be served under house arrest. The order also allowed for further sentence reduction for good behaviour. There have been no further “violations”.

Home Minister Maung Oo had said early this year that she would be released in November. But hopes surrounding her impending release were dampened yesterday when the Supreme Court in the capital of Naypyidaw dismissed her special appeal against the house arrest.

The big question among Burma observers and analysts is what Suu Kyi will do after her release and what sort of political change will result.
Some speculate that as the junta has dissolved her party, meaning it is no longer a legal entity, she will reorganise it and focus on social work for the people, as she had directed party leaders to do while locked up this year in the run-up to the election.

But how did Suu Kyi reach this point? The Oxford University graduate in political science had returned to Burma to look after her ailing mother, when she became involved in the 1988 mass uprising revolting against the one-party dictatorship. Due in no small measure to her background as the daughter of Aung San, she then became the icon of the democracy struggle after setting up the NLD party with among others, Aung Shwe, Win Tin and Aung Gyi.

Led by Suu Kyi, the party won a landslide victory with at least 80 per cent of the seats in the 1990 general election, while she was again under house arrest. The military regime refused to honour the people’s choice and step down.

The party was then forced to attend the National Convention to draft the new constitution. The final product was finished in 2008 and laid the groundwork for the widely condemned elections on Sunday. The NLD withdrew from the convention as the junta was forcing drafters to ensure a dominant role for the military in a future “democratic” state.

What followed for years for Suu Kyi were periods of detention and brief freedoms. During one of the latter times, she and NLD supporters embarked on road trip in northwest Burma, during which junta thugs attacked their convoy in what became known as the Depayin massacre in May, 2003. Junta-sponsored thugs, reportedly 5,000 belonging to Union Solidarity and Development Association and other right-wing groups, attacked the motorcade members with sticks, clubs and swords near Depayin in Sagaing Division, killing at least 70 people, independent and NLD reports say. The junta said four were killed.

Suu Kyi managed to elude the attackers but was again detained at a village nearby and she and party vice-chairman Tin Oo were again arrested. He was released in February this year after years in jail or under house arrest, with multiple extensions of his sentence. He was recently allowed taking treatment in Singapore.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi also suffers from gastric ailments and dehydration, and was recently taken for emergency treatment for heart disease at Rangoon General Hospital in April.

As NLD general secretary, Suu Kyi decided to boycott the general election that was held on Sunday, which is now suffering under widespread allegations of vote rigging and irregularities. NLD splinter party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), contested for 161 seats in different legislatures and won 16 seats.

Last Updated ( Friday, 12 November 2010 22:19 )  

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