Today, on Saturday, November 13, Aung San Suu Kyi was released in Myanmar (Burma) after being held under house arrest for most of the last two decades.
Amnesty International, the Freedom Forum, the US Campaign for Burma, the United Nations and even the Nobel Prize Committee along with thousands of activist groups have been fighting for her release and the right to democracy. Musicians such as U2 and REM and others have dedicated songs to her and even President Obama sees her as a personal hero.
“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. “She is a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world.”
Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement on Nobel peace laureate’s release:
“I am pleased that Aung San Suu Kyi has finally been released from house arrest in Burma. She is an unwavering champion of peace, democracy and respect for human rights in Burma, despite being held in detention for 15 of the past 21 years. In December 2007, Canada imposed the toughest sanctions in the world against the Burmese regime to indicate its condemnation of the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and its repression of the country’s democratic movement. Those sanctions will remain in place.”
The ruling junta in Mynmar has just completed elections this week which once again illegitimately returned them to power held only by the violence of the gun. Their release of Aung San Suu Kyi after the elections is an attempt to gain some measure of legitimacy from the west; but it won’t work of course.
This could be the beginning of a new chapter of the democracy movement in Burma, but it could also be a ruse in which, should Aung San Suu Kyi leave the country to attend any conference or speaking engagements, they might not let her back in. They may easily re-arrest her prior to any further elections.
There are scores of political prisoners languishing in Burmese jails who have supported Suu Kyi. We can only hope they might be released as well. We must not forget the thousands of Buddhist monks who peacefully protested against the military regime and who were also brutally repressed and many killed.
This is a great development and maybe a tipping point — we can hope and keep watching.