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Aung San Suu Kyi walks free

P.S. Suryanarayana

She exhorts people to act in “unison” to achieve genuine democracy

— Photo: AP

Taste of freedom:Her face full of emotions, Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to supporters outside her home in Yangon on Saturday. The junta freed its archrival on completion of her latest term of house arrest.

SINGAPORE: Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's celebrated pro-democracy leader and a political prisoner of global stature, was set free from house arrest in Yangon on Saturday.

The 65-year-old Ms. Suu Kyi's release was greeted by cheering supporters who gathered outside her house in a show of defiance against Myanmar's military government. Hundreds of other supporters waited for her at the Yangon headquarters of the recently-derecognised National League for Democracy (NLD), which she still leads.

Speaking to The Hindu from Yangon, Ms. Suu Kyi's lawyer and close political associate, Nyan Win, said “no conditions” were imposed for her new freedom. There was no confirmation of this by the junta, the State Peace and Development Council.

World leaders hailed her in comments on the release, which was ordered before the junta could transfer power to an ostensibly “civilian” government following the November 7 general election.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed relief over member-state Myanmar's action of setting Ms. Suu Kyi free at least now, upon the completion of her latest term of house arrest.

Myanmar's military establishments have subjected Ms. Suu Kyi to four terms of house arrest and at least two spells in prison, for about 15 years in all, since 1989. She led the NLD to a landslide victory in the country's free elections in 1990 but was not allowed to lead a civilian government.

Walking free on Saturday evening, for the first time since 2003, Ms. Suu Kyi covered the distance from her old lakeside bungalow to the gate to acknowledge the greetings of her supporters. As she smiled and waved at them from across the gate, an enthusiast tossed up a bunch of flowers for her. The video-footage of her first public appearance in several years showed her accepting the flowers in a typical oriental style. She was in good spirit.

In a message, Ms. Suu Kyi exhorted the people of Myanmar to act in “unison” to achieve genuine democracy. And, there could be no democracy without discipline, she emphasised.

Promising to address the people on Sunday, she spent the first hours of freedom in talks with fellow-leaders of the NLD. Mr. Nyan Win hinted that the talks covered a strategy to counter the outcome of the “flawed” election, which the NLD boycotted.

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