Burma’s pro-democracy leader has been released on Saturday after seven years of house arrest. Her latest detention was due to expire on that day.
Aung San Suu Kyi met crowds of supporters at the gate of her home in Yangon, the country’s main city, soon after her release (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
Earlier, witnesses said hundreds of people rushed to her home after the authorities removed barbed-wire barricades in front of her compound.
Then Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), appeared at the gate of her compound, the crowd chanted, cheered and sang the national anthem.
“We must work together in unison to achieve our goal,” she told the cheering crowd.
Smiling and wearing a traditional jacket and a flower in her hair, Aung San Suu Kyi told the crowd that tonight she will stay inside her house.
Rumors of her release had brought around 1,000 people, including journalists, near her lakeside house throughout the day.
Many were chanting “Release Aung San Suu Kyi” and “Long live Aung San Suu Kyi” and some wore T-shirts emblazoned with messages pledging to stand with her.
Quoting a witness, Reuters news agency reported that shortly before she appeared at the gate Aung San Suu Kyi met a lawyer and a doctor inside her home.
A government official said the release order was read by the authorities to her.
A week before her release, the country went through an election which was swept by military backed candidates and that many nations called a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.
‘Sacrificed for the people’
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nyo Myint, an NLD spokesperson, said: “I have no words to say. She just sacrificed for the people, who have really suffered. This is the moment that we the Burmese people hoped for more than 20 years.
“All the international leaders, not only the US president but also the Chinese president, Asean, [the] UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon should visit Burma [as it was known then] as soon as possible.”
According to Nyo Myint the problem in Burma is that the ruling generals have not changed anything in the past 20 years.
“We thank the people supporting the Burmese democratisation, but we need to have it more solid and more national reconciliation,” he added.
The US president reacted immediately. The White House press office released a statement saying that the US welcomes her “long overdue” release.
“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,” the statement also said.
“Whether Aung San Suu Kyi is living in the prison of her house, or the prison of her country, does not change the fact that she, and the political opposition she represents, has been systematically silenced, incarcerated, and deprived of any opportunity to engage in political processes that could change Burma.”
Obama also said it was time for the military government to release all other political prisoners.
Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a 10-member regional bloc which includes Burma, told AFP on Saturday : “I’m very, very relieved and hope that this will contribute to true national reconciliation in Myanmar and that Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to play a role in bringing national reconciliation,” Surin told AFP.