Friday, November 12, 2010

Will Burmese Junta Release Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi

Will the Burmese junta, which just won yet another rigged election in "convincing" fashion, release pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi? Media reports seem to indicate that her release from house arrest is pending, but why would the regime release one of their most outspoken critics?

Some seem to think that this might be a way to lessen the outrage over the junta rigging yet another election:
On Friday, a day ahead of her scheduled release, government officials told the French news agency her release was a certainty, although no time was mentioned.

And Tin Oo, vice chairman of her banned National League for Democracy party, said his sources told him her release order has been signed.

Authorities increased security in Rangoon as supporters gathered near her lakeside home and at the party's headquarters.

A Saturday release would be six days after Burma's first election in two decades. The military's political party already has claimed a majority of seats in both houses of parliament, in voting that Western leaders and human rights activists say was fraudulent and aimed at ensuring continued military rule with a civilian face.

Aung San Suu Kyi's release would raise immediate questions about how much freedom the military rulers will grant her. Her followers say she will not accept any conditions on release. Her lawyer says the 65-year-old Nobel Peace laureate would resume political activities.

Her party won a landslide victory in Burma's last elections, held in 1990, but military rulers refused to let it take power. Now, some analysts think the military might view Aung San Suu Kyi's release as a way to soften overseas criticism of last Sunday's election.
Given that she's been held for 15 of the last 21 years by the junta, the release doesn't mean much given how tight a leash the junta will have on her appearances and ability to travel. Expect that the slightest amount of criticism or failure to follow rules will land her back under house arrest.

The junta has repeatedly failed to adhere to the will of the Burmese people and the latest rigged elections are no exception. Nor is Kyi the only political prisoner being held by the junta. She's only the most visible - largely as a result of being a Nobel laureate.

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