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Old 05-05-2002, 09:06 PM   #1
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Myanmar Releases Democracy Leader Suu Kyi

Myanmar Releases Democracy Leader Suu Kyi
Sun May 5, 9:42 PM ET
By Andrew Marshall

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government said on Monday it had freed pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi after 19 months of house arrest, but by early morning the Nobel laureate had yet to emerge from her lakeside home.

"As of today, she is at liberty to carry out all activities, including her party's," a government spokesman told Reuters.

The junta said in a statement it had released 600 political prisoners in recent months and would more would freed soon, provided they were not a threat to national stability.

"Today marks the start of a new page for the people of Myanmar and the international community," it said in a statement.

"We shall recommit ourselves to allowing all of our citizens to participate freely in the life of our political process while giving precedence to national unity, peace and the stability of the country as well as the region."

It was not clear if any conditions were attached to Suu Kyi's release.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) is regarded by many in the international community as Myanmar's legitimate government. It won the country's last elections in 1990 by a landslide, stunning the junta which refused to hand over power.

Opposition sources said Suu Kyi was expected to speak to the media later on Monday, but barricades and a "no entry" sign were still in place as workers cleaned University Avenue outside and reporters and photographers gathered. Buddhist monks were walking nearby.

The 56-year-old Nobel peace laureate has been confined to her house with her telephone line cut since September 2000 after trying to defy a government ban on travel outside the capital.

Her release, which came after secret talks with the government, has been among the top demands of the international community, which has isolated Myanmar and imposed economic sanctions on the impoverished country in a bid to force political change.

Suu Kyi has spent years in house arrest since emerging as a leader of Myanmar's democracy movement in 1988 after the military bloodily suppressed anti-government protests. The military has ruled the country since a 1962 coup.

Suu Kyi was confined to her house from 1989 to 1995, and her release then was marked by jubilant scenes as crowds thronged the street outside her residence.

Diplomats say the junta wants to avoid this happening again, and that Suu Kyi may have agreed to keep a low profile in the days following her release.

An official at DCI Group, a U.S. publicity firm representing the Myanmar government in Washington, said a media conference would be held at 10 a.m. (11:30 p.m. EDT Sunday).


In a statement faxed to Reuters by DCI, the military government said it would continue to release detainees, without mentioning Suu Kyi by name.

"We have released nearly 600 detainees in recent months and shall continue to release those who will cause no harm to the community nor threaten the existing peace, stability and unity of the nation," the statement said.

"We shall recommit ourselves to allowing all of our citizens to participate freely in the life of our political process while giving precedence to national unity, peace and the stability of the country as well as the region," the government said.

The ruling generals began secretive talks with Suu Kyi in October 2000, saying they wanted to find common ground to break the political deadlock.

The military insists it is committed to bringing democracy to Myanmar, but says that moving too fast would risk the disintegration of the multi-ethnic country.

At the NLD's headquarters, a dilapidated building in central Yangon, activists have been preparing for Suu Kyi's release, cleaning their offices and installing air conditioning. Party sources said Suu Kyi was expected to come to the headquarters later on Monday to make a statement.

The United States said last week it would welcome freedom for Suu Kyi -- the daughter of Myanmar's 1940s independence hero Aung San -- but told the junta her release must be unconditional and would not automatically lead to a lifting of sanctions.

Neither the White House or the State Department had any immediate comment on the release.

The World Bank (news - web sites), which closed its loan programs with Myanmar in 1995 because of its government policies, was not immediately available for comment.

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Old 05-05-2002, 10:58 PM   #2
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That's great news.

Walk On....

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Old 05-06-2002, 08:28 AM   #3
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Halle-Halle Hallelujah
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Old 05-06-2002, 09:30 AM   #4
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Let the bells ring out...
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Old 05-06-2002, 09:34 AM   #5
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another interesting article...

Freed Suu Kyi Vows to Keep Fighting for Myanmar
Mon May 6, 9:12 AM ET
By Andrew Marshall

YANGON, Myanmar (Reuters) - Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was freed Monday from 19 months of house arrest in Myanmar and told hundreds of rapturous supporters she would carry on the fight for democracy in the military ruled country.

Calm and composed, her hair tied back with flowers, Suu Kyi was driven from her lakeside home to the ramshackle Yangon headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) to cheers from a large crowd gathered in the most overt display of political activism in years.

She told a news conference although her party had not changed its opposition to foreign investment, aid and tourism while the military remained in power, the junta had placed no conditions on her release.

Western and Asian governments hailed Suu Kyi's release as a breakthrough, but cautioned it was only the first step of a long process toward political reform.

It was by no means clear how much further the junta will go in their bid to shake off international sanctions that have helped cripple the economy.

Announcing the release of the 56-year-old daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, the military government said it had begun "a new page for the people of Myanmar and the international community."

Suu Kyi said while she was pleased the junta was proclaiming a "new dawn," she wanted real political change.

"We only hope the dawn will move forward very quickly into full morning," she said.


Razali Ismail, the United Nations (news - web sites) special envoy to Myanmar who helped negotiate Suu Kyi's release, said elections could be held within 2-3 years.

The head of European Union (news - web sites) foreign policy and security, Javier Solana, said in a statement the release was an important step for Myanmar.

He said he hoped it would "begin the process of Myanmar's reintegration into the international community."

U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson called Suu Kyi's release "historic," but in a statement with the U.N. special investigator for Myanmar, Sergio Pinheiro, added she hoped the move would be followed by freedom for all political prisoners.

Risking the ire of a government whose troops brutally put down pro-democracy student protests in 1988, hundreds of people thronged the tree-shaded street outside the NLD headquarters to catch a glimpse of Suu Kyi.

Monks in crimson robes and shaven-headed nuns carrying paper umbrellas to shade them from the tropical sun were among the crowd. Cheers erupted when Suu Kyi arrived.


The junta has been holding secretive talks with Suu Kyi since October 2000 in a bid to break the political stalemate that has gripped the country for more than a decade and secure the lifting of international sanctions that have pushed the tottering economy to the brink of collapse.

Suu Kyi said the talks -- which have so far centered on "confidence-building" -- now had to start tackling substantive issues and mapping out a framework for political change.

"Both sides agree that the phase of confidence building is over," she said. "We look forward to moving across to a more significant phase."

Suu Kyi and the junta have in the past expressed radically different views over what constitutes political progress.

Suu Kyi has always argued for full democracy and the dismantling of military power in civil society. The generals have said Myanmar is not ready for democracy and would fall apart if they gave up control.

Suu Kyi became the figurehead of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement in 1988 when the military -- which has ruled the country for four decades -- bloodily suppressed anti-government protests.

The NLD won a landslide victory in elections in 1990, stunning the military which refused to hand over power. Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest from 1989 to 1995.

Following her release then, her house on University Avenue became a rallying point for opposition to the junta. Thousands gathered outside to see her speak each week.

The government returned her to house arrest in September 2000 after she defied orders not to leave Yangon.

Suu Kyi said she had agreed with the government that the road to her house should remain closed. "It just means I get a good rest," she said. But she added she was free to travel anywhere within the country to meet party members.

"There are no restrictions on my movement," she said. "I can go anywhere I like."

She said while the NLD had not changed its support for economic sanctions on Myanmar, or its insistence that the results of the 1990 elections should be recognized, its position was flexible and open for discussion.

International sanctions are Suu Kyi's most powerful bargaining chip in talks with the ruling generals. Many Western countries would resume investment and aid if Suu Kyi said she supported such a move.

Myanmar's newspapers, television and radio -- all controlled by the government -- have made no mention of Suu Kyi's release, but many citizens listen to international radio broadcasts and news spread by word of mouth.
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Old 05-06-2002, 09:37 AM   #6
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Wonderful news !!
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Old 05-07-2002, 10:49 AM   #7
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I was happy to see her smiling face on the cover of the New York Times this morning.

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