Monday, 20 January 2020

Mizzima News

Home > News > Inside Burma > Free at last, free at last

Free at last, free at last

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Aung San Suu Kyi, the embattled Burmese opposition leader who first rose to prominence in confronting Burma’s military on the streets of Rangoon in 1988, is no longer the world’s most recognised political prisoner.

At 5:22 p.m. (local time) yesterday, the Burmese opposition icon emerged from behind the yellow gates of her estate amidst rapturous applause and rounds of the country’s national anthem as a free woman to greet an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 supporters. The boughs of trees appeared on the verge of collapse under the weight of those seeking the best vantage point possible.

Upon making her long-anticipated appearance, gladly accepting a bouquet of flowers from supporters and donning the by now trademark flower behind the right ear, her face exuded the same glow and defined features that have drawn so many to her.

Looking near tears at one point, the Nobel laureate thanked her supporters and welcomed everyone to her party’s, National League for Democracy (NLD), headquarters in Bahan Township today at noon.


Her release, however, was not always assured.

Having gathered near her residence on University Avenue before 8 a.m., those awaiting Suu Kyi’s first appearance as a free woman since 2003 were met with initial disappointment.

At about 10 a.m. NLD co-founder Win Tin arrived and expressed his hope that the party’s secretary general would be released, telling Mizzima that at that time no release papers had been signed.

Around 45 minutes later, the British ambassador made an appearance, iterating: “We certainly hope she will be freed. She should be freed.”

With renewed rumours circulating of her impending release at 4 p.m., the crowd, several hundred at that point, started to push toward the barricades of her compound. Security forces replied with the deployment of about two-dozen riot police armed with rifles.

Six truckloads of riot police stationed in proximity to the exit of those on the street to the rear signalled the potential for yet another ugly incident in the history of Burma’s political stand-off. Yet, the much-maligned security sector acted honourably and professionally throughout the day’s events.

Just prior to 5 p.m. there was a flurry of activity at the entrance to 54 University Avenue, with several individuals in white shirts and longyis leaving the compound at a fair gait.

Then, shortly after 5 p.m., the security detail dismantled the multicoloured umbrella providing shade at the checkpoint leading from Kaba Aye Pagoda Road and withdrew to either side of the street, resulting in a stream of people surging past riot police and the “Restricted Access” sign.

The crowd and emotions were such that a few tussles broke out between NLD youth-wing members and foreign journalists concerning the need for everyone to “squat” on the pavement. Additionally, an aging party member was nearly crushed between the sea of people and a tree.

But still, the feeling last night on the streets of Rangoon was one of cautious revelry for many. Even after the conclusion of “The Lady’s” speech, the main thoroughfares leading to University Avenue were lined with supporters, many wearing T-shirts and other Suu Kyi paraphernalia, making their way to pay their respects to the embattled opposition leader.

However, while the mood was of joy today tonight, serious questions and obstacles lay ahead of Suu Kyi and her followers, who she pleaded with to remain disciplined in the proceeding days.

One Burmese in attendance, supportive of Suu Kyi and visibly excited at the prospect of seeing her in person, averred his belief that Burma can only go forward gradually, “step by step”.

When asked if Suu Kyi was capable of such an approach to confronting the country’s ills, he responded: “I don’t think so. She can be very stubborn.”

A European diplomat, long involved with Burma, when asked what message he would like to convey to the opposition leader if given a chance to meet, told Mizzima he would tell her she has two options: to compromise and talk with the generals, or lead a full-out revolution.

None of this, however, should detract from the fact that so many put their faith so evidently behind “The Lady”. Having been told for years by supporters that once she is free Suu Kyi will know what to do, starting today she will be given that opportunity after seven years of confinement. Though several daunting questions and issues lie in the wake.

How will she approach the results of the 2010 general election that, as flawed as it was, has resulted in the diversification and complication of the country’s political framework? With ethnic tensions on the rise in many frontier areas, will Suu Kyi be able to play a proactive and positive role in resolving the crisis to the apparent interests of all parties involved?

As the initial crowd dispersed from in front of her compound shortly before 6 p.m. and Aung San Suu Kyi retired to presumably one of her happier night’s sleep in some time, Win Tin could be seen through an uneven bamboo fence pacing the grass, hands folded behind his back.

Work aplenty there is to do. And the hope of so many Burmese is that a free Suu Kyi can abet in bettering the lives of the people.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 14 November 2010 13:27 )  

Download Mobile App