Having spent fifteen of the last twenty-one years under house arrest, Burma’s most famous opposition leader walked free yesterday. Thousands of supporters had been gathering outside her home as her sentence came to an end, but it was not certain that the military junta would permit her release. Rumours ran wild until she appeared at the gates to her house to great the crowds.
Suu Kyi was the leader of the NLD (the National League for Democracy) party, which won elections in 1990. These were the first elections to be allowed by the junta since it came to power in 1962. Before they could take power, the military staged another violent coup and annulled the election results, therefore retaining power. Many opposing parties have been excluded from the governing council ever since. The junta has ruled harshly and any protests are violently put down. The country faces widespread international condemnation.
The first elections since those won by Aung San Suu Kyi in 1990 were held last week. The NLD refused to participate in what the international community has labelled ‘a sham’, and was therefore disbanded. The largest party which supports the junta won by a clear majority. Many speculate that Suu Kyi’s release was an effort to legalise the elections.
So what now for the woman who has endured so much and is the hope of millions? She has held her first meeting with NLD leaders in seven years, and has said that she would be happy to meet with the junta to discuss how to improve Burma’s human rights legislature. She must tread carefully or she may find herself back in confinement before she has the chance to change anything.