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Political leaders and supporters the world over have reacted with excitement, albeit cautiously, to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Burmese opposition icon’s seven years under house arrest came to an end this evening and she was seen briefly at the gates of her compound to address the thousands of supporters that had gathered.
“There is a time to be quiet and a time to talk,” she said. “People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal.” A DVB cameraman managed to film the event undercover.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described her as the “world’s most renowned and courageous prisoner of conscience” and said that “her release proves that no injustice can last forever”. US President Barrack Obama said her release was “long overdue”.
The Thai government, which has attracted criticism for its continued warm relations with the Burmese junta, said that the news was “exciting”. The regime’s key ally, China, is yet to make a statement.
But while the scenes that accompanied news of her release were jubilant, a note of caution was sounded by Zoya Phan from Burma Campaign UK.
“I am thrilled to see our democracy leader free at last, but the release is not part of any political process. Instead it is designed to get positive publicity for the dictatorship after the blatant rigging of elections on 7 November,” she said.
“We must not forget the thousands of other political prisoners still suffering in Burma’s jails.”
That sentiment was echoed by Dr Maug Zarni, a research fellow at the London School of Economics. “We should not fool ourselves to think that her release signals the desire on the part of the Myanmarse [Burmese] regime towards democratization, dialogue and reconciliation.”
Indeed it was Suu Kyi who said after her last release in 2002 that it “should not be looked at as a major breakthrough for democracy. For all people in Burma to enjoy basic freedom, that would be a major breakthrough”.
The BBC said that the 65-year-old has spoken on the phone to her youngest son, Kim Aris, who this week was reportedly granted a visa to go to Burma.
The two have had no communication for a decade. The conditions of Suu Kyi’s house arrest meant that she was banned from meeting or speaking with anyone except her two live-in caretakers, and her doctor and lawyer.
She is due to give a longer speech at midday on Sunday, and will spend tonight inside her house.