Suu Kyi Supporters Gather For Second Day To Await Her Release

by
aliciawesly2
Hundreds gathered near the National League for Democracy headquarters in Myanmar for a second day on Saturday, as they awaited the release of activist Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. Rumors had swirled Friday that Suu Kyi would be freed, sending a crowd of reporters and supporters to her home and party headquarters, both in Yangon.

(CNN)

Hundreds gathered near the National League for Democracy headquarters in Myanmar for a second day on Saturday, as they awaited the release of activist Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Rumors had swirled Friday that Suu Kyi would be freed, sending a crowd of reporters and supporters to her home and party headquarters, both in Yangon.

Myanmar's military junta has said it plans to release Suu Kyi, but it did not say when. Many now hope it will happen Saturday when her house arrest is scheduled to end.

Supporters have gathered outside the headquarters of Ms Suu Kyi's NLD party

"We don't know the exact time when the term will be expired, but we expect sometime in the evening," said Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers.

Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Security has been stepped up in Myanmar, but it was unclear whether that was because of Suu Kyi's possible release or because of the country's first elections in two decades, which took place Sunday.

Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's Myanmar specialist, said it makes "perfect sense" for the regime to free her since she's "no longer an electoral threat to them." She was unable to participate in the elections because of a recent court conviction.

There have been calls around the world for Suu Kyi's release, including one from U.S. President Barack Obama during his current trip to Asia. Zawacki, however, said she will be freed only if the nation's ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, believes it's in his interest, not because of international pressure.

"I don't anticipate they will release her without conditions," Zawacki said. If she violated any conditions of release, he said, she could be arrested again.

The ruling military junta has been slowly releasing official election results, but critics say a victory for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party is all but certain. Critics called the elections a fraud aimed at creating the facade of democracy in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The junta has refused to allow international media into Myanmar to cover the elections and their aftermath. It also refused to allow international monitors to oversee the election.

Supporters of Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stand near her portrait at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Saturday

"The elections were billed as one of the final elements of the so-called seven-step roadmap to democracy," said a statement Friday from United Nations human rights experts.

"True democratic transition will require genuine dialogue with all stakeholders including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the various ethnic minorities that were excluded from the electoral process," they said. "These prominent voices are necessary if Myanmar's democratic transition is to have a chance of succeeding."

The Burma Campaign UK, which promotes human rights in Myanmar, said the "blatant rigging of the November 7 election" and the junta's hard-line positions could not bode well for Suu Kyi.

Supporters of Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stand near her portrait at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Saturday

"Conversely, they could be calculating that by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi they will receive so much positive publicity it will counter the negative attention on the election," the group said.

If Suu Kyi is released Saturday, one of the first things she will do is challenge the legitimacy of the elections, said Maung Zarni, a research fellow on Myanmar at the London School of Economics.

Her release would have to be approved by Shwe, Zarni said. As it is, Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest at his discretion, Zarni said.

"She has made it categorically clear that she will not accept conditions; that she will not walk out of the house with conditions," Zarni said.

Supporters of Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stand near her portrait at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Saturday

Such limitations could include restrictions on where she could go, with whom she could meet and how she could communicate. For instance, she wants a Twitter account so she can communicate with Myanmar's younger population, Zarni said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. In 1990, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won parliamentary elections by a landslide, but the military junta rejected the results.

The regime recently passed a law that made her ineligible to stand in Sunday's elections because of her court conviction last year. She was found guilty of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which American man John Yettaw swam uninvited to her lakeside house in Yangon and briefly stayed there.

Suu Kyi's supporters have said the conviction was simply a way to remove her from the election campaign.