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Politic-Economic-Society-Tech

World Waits for Myanmar Military to Free Suu Kyi

By Andrew Marshall
Myanmar's pro-democracy movement kept up a vigil on Sunday waiting for news of their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is expected to be freed from 19 months of house arrest within days.

Political sources in military-ruled Myanmar said the 56-year-old Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, was likely to be released on Sunday or Monday.

Senior leaders of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) say she told them she was confident of being freed soon following secret meetings with the ruling junta.

But the military has made no comment on the expected release. On Yangon's University Avenue, where Suu Kyi has been confined to her home since September 2000, barricades and a "No Entry" sign were still in place on Sunday.

Myanmar has been gripped by feverish speculation for days that Suu Kyi was set to be freed. But as day after day has gone by with no word on her release, growing doubts have emerged.

Suu Kyi has spent years in house arrest since emerging as the figurehead of Myanmar's democracy movement in 1988 after the military bloodily suppressed anti-government protests.

She was confined to her house from 1989 to 1995, and her release then was marked by jubilant scenes as crowds thronged the street outside her residence.

Diplomats say the junta wants to avoid this happening again, and has been trying to reach agreement with Suu Kyi that she will keep a low profile after her release. They said this may be one of the hitches that has delayed her being freed.

The NLD, which scored a runaway victory in Myanmar's last democratic elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, says Suu Kyi's release must be unconditional.

The international community is also pressing for an unconditional release. Diplomats and analysts say sanctions on Myanmar, which have pushed its tottering economy to the brink of collapse, are the main reason for the junta's efforts to strike a deal with the opposition.

The ruling generals began secretive talks with Suu Kyi in October 2000, saying they wanted to find common ground to break the political stalemate. But so far, the talks have yielded no concrete results.

The military insists it is committed to bringing democracy to Myanmar, but says that moving too fast would risk the disintegration of the multi-ethnic country.

Vietnam's president arrives in Myanmar on Sunday for an official visit, and political sources said the barricades outside Suu Kyi's house may be removed to allow his convoy to use the road on its way from the airport to the city center.

The world will be watching to see whether the barricades are put back in place afterwards.

source: http://www.bangkokpost.com,04.05.2002


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