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Myanmar opposition sees Suu Kyi free soon

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed from house arrest in a day or two, the chairman of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said on Monday.
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, pictured in May 2002.Sukree Sukplang / Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed from house arrest in a day or two, the chairman of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said on Monday. Speculation has been rife that the Nobel peace laureate will be freed after the military government allowed the NLD to reopen its Yangon headquarters on Saturday, nearly a year after it was shut and its leader Suu Kyi detained.

"I think she will be released in a day or two," NLD chairman Aung Shwe told reporters after a meeting of the party's executive committee.

Aung Shwe, who was freed from house arrest last week, did not say why he was optimistic that Suu Kyi's third major period of confinement would end soon. The government and state media have been silent.

As NLD leaders met inside, dozens of supporters anxiously waited for news on the same street where jubilant crowds mobbed Suu Kyi after her last release from house arrest in May 2002.

"We hope she will be freed. This would be the best way to break the political deadlock," said one man.

Some Yangon-based diplomats believe there have been contacts between the military and Suu Kyi on the junta's proposed "road map to democracy," which includes multi-party constitutional talks due to start on May 17.

But they said it was not certain Suu Kyi would be freed before the National Convention opens next month.

"I think it is unlikely they will release her before May 17. The government may be fully aware that she will not join the National Convention and she would be in a position to disrupt the whole process," one Asian diplomat said.

Fresh talks
The first convention was suspended in 1996 after the NLD walked out accusing the junta of manipulating the process.

The NLD has refused to consider joining the talks until Suu Kyi and her vice-chairman Tin Oo are freed and meet with the party's executive committee.

They are the last senior NLD leaders still confined since a bloody clash between her followers and government supporters in May last year.

"We will decide this matter only when she comes out," said Aung Shwe, who led the party's delegation at the last conference.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, emerged as a figurehead of the pro-democracy movement in 1988, and has faced years of harassment by the junta.

She was held under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and for 19 months until May, 2002. Her release then was greeted by jubilant crowds in Yangon amid hopes the country's political deadlock would end with fresh negotiations.

But the talks eventually collapsed and Suu Kyi was arrested along with other NLD leaders after the clashes last May.

The United States says it suspects Suu Kyi and her convoy were ambushed by "government-affiliated thugs." Dissidents in exile said scores of NLD followers were killed, although the military said four people died in clashes it blamed on Suu Kyi.

Since major surgery in September, Suu Kyi has been confined to her lakeside home, her telephone cut off and visitors restricted. Before that, she was detained at a secret location.

Many in the international community regard the NLD as Myanmar's legitimate government. It won the country's last elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the junta refused to hand over power.

EU and Asian nations meeting in Ireland this weekend were at loggerheads over Suu Kyi's detention, with former colonial ruler Britain pressing hard to keep Myanmar out of their dialogue forum.