Myanmar tightened security around the lakeside home of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday as Western governments and opposition groups demanded her release from house arrest.
Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbors and partners in a 10-country regional grouping said Suu Kyi's return home after nearly four months in detention was a positive gesture by the military government.
The Nobel laureate, who had major surgery a week ago, was driven late on Friday from a hospital in the capital to the house where she was confined for more than seven of the past 14 years.
Security was tight near her home yesterday with booms across major roads, police checking cars and restricting access.
"Only people with a pass are allowed into this area," a plainsclothes security officer said.
Indonesia and Thailand, among the neighbors embarrassed by Suu Kyi's detention and pushing for her release before a regional summit next month, said Yangon's decision to move her should not be ignored.
"Allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to return home is a step in the right direction for democracy, which involves listening to the opinion of various sides," said Thai spokesman Sita Divari.
Britain and the US called for her unconditional and immediate release.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is again a prisoner in her own home and the military regime flagrantly continues to disregard the Burmese people's demands for democracy and human rights," British Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien said.
The US, which along with the EU has tightened sanctions against the junta, echoed that view.
"We remain concerned about her situation as well as [that] of other political prisoners," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said. "We reiterate our calls for the junta to immediately lift all restrictions on her."
Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest.
She was detained on May 30 after a clash between her followers and government supporters. Many of her followers were also held.
On the streets of Yangon, residents debated the generals' next move.
"I heard from the radio she is back home, but I wonder when she will be released. We'll have to see how the government tackles this crisis," said one man as he drank tea at a shop.
Myanmar's military rulers said Suu Kyi, held in isolation at a secret location before entering the hospital, had returned home, but did not say whether she was under house arrest.
"She will continue to rest at home under the supervision of her doctors while the government stands ready to provide and assist her with medical and humanitarian needs," a government statement said on Friday.
Officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.
Her doctor said she would not be free to come and go. "She will be under house arrest," Dr. Tin Myo Win said at the Asia Royal medical center on Friday.
"Anybody who wishes to see her once she is home can make arrangement through the authorities," he said.
Indonesia, which chairs the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, wants Myanmar, also known as Burma, to free Suu Kyi before ASEAN leaders meet in Bali on Oct. 7 and 8.
"When something positive is happening we should give appreciation. This is not an insignificant movement," said Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia's foreign affairs spokesman.
It is one of the few groups to accept Myanmar, and exiled dissidents want ASEAN to get tough with their neighbor.