Yangon (AsiaNews) – Burma’s opposition and the international community are waiting to hear that Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Prize winner and iconic figure in Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, is free. Senior General Than Shwe signed the release order, which Ms Suu Kyi received around noon. Security forces have been deployed in large numbers around the opposition leader’s house on University Avenue, in Yangon. Downtown, some 800 supporters have gathered at the NLD headquarters. Ms Suu Kyi should be able to leave her home between 3 and 4 pm (GMT + 6:30). A press conference is scheduled for 5 pm at party headquarters. However, everything could be put off to tomorrow, when her house arrest formally ends.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, spent 15 of the past 21 years under in one form of arrest or another. The latest, an 18-month sentence of house arrest, came in August 2009 after she was convicted of hosting an American in her home. Right away, most observers saw the conviction as a way to remove her ahead of this week’s general elections, the first in 20 years.
In the meantime, allegations of vote rigging and election fraud are hovering over the poll. The Nobel Prize laureate said that once free she would work with those investigating the elections. She also said that she would not accept any “conditions” on her release, such as withdrawing from politics or stepping down as leader of Burma’s opposition.
According to local sources, the junta has a plan to ensure Aung San Suu Kyi’s “safety” that includes a special unit of police officers who had already guaranteed her protection in the past.
This morning, the authorities also beefed up military and police presence around her house. Around noon, government officials handed Ms Suu Kyi her release papers signed by Senior General Than Shwe, head of the military regime.
Some reports are saying that the Nobel laureate will leave her home in the afternoon, and that a 5 pm local time, she will hold a press conference at NLD headquarters, already surrounded by crowds of people.
News about her imminent release has generated interest in the international community as well. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) was one of the first groups to contact AsiaNews to welcome the news. In their statement, the Indian Christian activists said that the “ruling military junta [. . .] has no moral right to continue in power” in Myanmar. Ms Suu Kyi “should be released unconditionally” so that she can get involved again “in the political process”. The GCIC also urged “the military to restore democracy” returning her the election they “hijacked” in 1990.