Video: Suu Kyi’s liberation met by euphoria, fear

  1. Transcript of: Suu Kyi’s liberation met by euphoria, fear

    HOLT: Good evening.

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: For two decades she has led an uphill fight for democracy against one of the world's most oppressive regimes, earning her a Nobel Peace Prize but costing her years of her personal freedom . But today in Myanmar , which some still call Burma , Aung San Suu Kyi , political prisoner and pro-democracy hero, was released from seven years of house arrest . Her appearance triggered spontaneous celebrations in the streets there and strong reaction here in the West , as well. NBC 's Ian Williams reports.

    IAN WILLIAMS reporting: There was no announcement, just the sudden removal of barricades blocking her road. And then thousands swarmed to greet Aung San Suu Kyi at the gate of the house that's been her prison for 15 of the last 21 years. They sang, they cheered, and Suu Kyi told them, 'We have a lot to do.' ITN's John Irvine was among those capturing the moment.

    Mr. JOHN IRVINE: In the midst of what was chaotic euphoria, I asked her how she was. How do you feel, madam? She could barely hear herself think.

    WILLIAMS: Her latest house arrest , seven years of near-total isolation, has been marked by periods of ill health, though tonight the 65-year-old pro-democracy leader was lifted by the excitement. Her jailers, the generals who've ruled Myanmar for almost half a century, recently held elections widely dismissed as a sham. Suu Kyi 's release may be aimed at deflecting that criticism. She is a symbol of hope in Myanmar , her release hailed around the world where millions have been moved by her soft-spoken and dignified opposition to dictatorship. She's often compared to Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela . Last time she was freed in 2002 , she was harassed and then rearrested after attracting rapturous crowds; and there are fears she will again face restrictions.

    Mr. SAM ZAIFI (Amnesty International): We hope that she hasn't been released from the prison of her house into effectively a larger prison into the country.

    WILLIAMS: It's been a hard personal struggler. Her husband, a British academic, died of cancer in 1999 while she was in detention. The generals didn't allow him to visit her during his illness. Soon after that, NBC 's Hoda Kotb arranged a secret interview with her in detention.

    HODA KOTB reporting: You sacrificed a lot of things. Has it been worth the fight?

    Ms. AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Oh, yes. I do -- and besides, I don't look upon it as a sacrifice. It's a choice. If you choose to do something, then you shouldn't say it's a sacrifice because nobody forced you to do it.

    WILLIAMS: And though she is now free from house arrest , it remains to be seen just how much freedom of movement and speech the ruling generals will now give her. Ian Williams , NBC News, Bangkok.

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Timeline: Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar, a mountainous republic in southeastern Asia, has been under military rule since 1962. Formerly known as Burma, the resource-rich former British colony has spent most of its post-independence history under authoritarian dictatorships.  Perhaps its most famous citizen is democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Click on the dates below to find out more.

Sources: Reuters, The Associated Press, BBC, Nobelprize.org, Burma Watch International | Link |

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