Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar says Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed soon


Myanmar has told its neighbors that democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed after the Nov. 7 elections, according to a source at a summit where the junta is under fire over the discredited poll.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win tackled the divisive issue with his regional counterparts during ASEAN talks in Hanoi on Wednesday.

“He said they will release Aung San Suu Kyi maybe after the elections,” said a foreign ministry official from one of the ASEAN delegations, who attended the dinner meeting.

However, Nyan Win “did not say specifically” when Suu Kyi — who has been in detention for 15 of the last 21 years — would be freed from house arrest, the source said.

Authorities in Myanmar have previously said that the former Nobel peace laureate would be released when her current term of house arrest expires on Nov. 13, but the military state has made no official confirmation.

Western governments as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — who holds talks today with ASEAN leaders — have repeatedly said the vote will not be credible unless Suu Kyi and other opponents are set free.

Ban has expressed growing “frustration” with the Myanmar junta in recent weeks and called on its neighbors to be more aggressive with their pariah neighbor or risk tarnishing their own democratic credentials.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who said on Wednesday that he believed it was not too late to fix the “credibility deficit” undermining the elections, indicated the region was anticipating an imminent release.

“Our understanding is that once the present term of her sentence has expired, once she has served her sentence, then that would be it and that notion was not disputed,” he said yesterday.

“That was the understanding that we presented [to Nyan Win] and we did not hear any disputing of that understanding,” he said.

Neither Suu Kyi nor her National League for Democracy (NLD) party will participate in the vote, the country’s first in two decades.

The junta, humiliated by its crashing defeat to the NLD in the 1990 polls, has prolonged Suu Kyi’s confinement almost continuously ever since.

Uncertainty over whether the military regime will indeed release the 65-year-old, known reverently among Myanmar’s people as “The Lady,” will remain until the moment she appears in public.

Suu Kyi’s current spell of detention stems from her imprisonment in May last year — just days before a previous period of house arrest came to an end — due to a bizarre incident in which a US citizen swam to her lakeside home.

She was initially given three years in jail and hard labor but returned to her crumbling family home in August last year after her sentence was commuted to one-and-a-half years’ house arrest by junta leader Than Shwe.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win has said the period of detention started with her imprisonment on May 14 and that authorities would have to release her in November because “there is no law to extend her house arrest.”

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