Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Excitement Grows in Burma as Aung San Suu Kyi's Release Nears

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Excitement Grows in Burma as Aung San Suu Kyi's Release Nears

Article excerpt

Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained democracy leader who has been under house arrest since 2003, is set to be released on Saturday evening

Less than a week after holding a much-criticized election, Burma's (Myanmar) military rulers appear set to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained democracy leader. Her term of house arrest ends Saturday and people have already begun to gather in anticipation near her house, according to news reports and witnesses.

Once she is freed, Ms. Suu Kyi will remain under close watch and could face severe curbs on her activities, as was the case in the past. Aides to Suu Kyi have said that she wouldn't accept any written restrictions in return for her freedom and that she had also sought to secure the release of Burma's other political prisoners, currently estimated to exceed 2,200.

Whether she tries to test any limits set by the junta or takes a more cautious approach could have far-reaching repercussions on Burma's political landscape, which has already begun to shift with the realignment of opposition forces and the emergence of new civil society groups.

In Rangoon, the former capital, word of the imminent release of "the lady," as she is known, from her secluded lakeside house has spread fast. "Almost everyone is talking about it or trying to go there," says a Burmese nongovernmental organization official.

Suu Kyi's symbolic importance

Suu Kyi has rarely been seen in public since May 2003, when she was detained after a pro-junta mob attacked a convoy of her supporters. During the previous year, she had held mass meetings around the country that attracted huge crowds, a testament both to her star power and the deep unpopularity of the regime.

For many ordinary Burmese, she is a symbol of injustice and a link to a more hopeful past: Her father, General Aung San, was an independence hero in the 1940s. …

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