Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from seven years of house arrest

Aung San Suu Kyi told thousands of wildly cheering supporters Sunday that she would continue to fight for human rights and the rule of law in the military-ruled nation.
She spoke to about 5,000 people who crowded around the dilapidated headquarters of her political party, the first stop for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate after leaving the lakeside residence that had been her prison.
“I believe in human rights and I believe in the rule of law. I will always fight for these things,” she said. “I want to work with all democratic forces and I need the support of the people.”
Suu kyi earlier slipped into the small compound of her National League for Democracy as people shouted “We love Suu” amid thunderous applause.
Inside, she met with Yangon-based diplomats and was later scheduled to talk with the media, attend the funeral of a close friend and pay a customary visit to the city’s sacred Shwedagon pagoda.
“This is an unconditional release. No restrictions are placed on her,” her lawyer Nyan Win said.
There was speculation whether she would use her newfound freedom to challenge the ruling military head-on, or be more conciliatory.
In her Sunday speech, she did not sound a strident note, speaking about working toward national reconciliation and saying she bore no grudge against those who had held her in detention for more than 15 of the last 21 years.
She thanked her well-wishers and asked them to pray for those still imprisoned by the regime. Human rights groups say the junta hold more than 2,200 political prisoners.
In her first public appearance Saturday evening, Suu Kyi indicated she would continue with her political activity but did not specify whether she would challenge the military with mass rallies and other activities that led to her earlier detentions.
“We have a lot of things to do,” said Suu Kyi, the 65-year-old charismatic and relentlessly outspoken woman who has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in the isolated and secretive nation once known as Burma. The country has been ruled by the military since 1962.
But while her release thrilled her supporters — and also clearly thrilled her — it came just days after an election that was swept by the ruling junta’s proxy political party and decried by Western nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.
Many observers have questioned whether it was timed by the junta to distract the world’s attention from the election. It is also unlikely that the ruling generals will allow Suu Kyi, who drew huge crowds of supporters during her few periods of freedom, to actively and publicly pursue her goal of bringing democracy to Myanmar. - AP

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