Nobel Lauriat and democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi was released unconditionally from house arrest today by the Burmese military regime. Suu Kyi endured a previous house arrest from 1989 to 1995 after she emerged as a leader of the opposition movement. The military regime refused to honor the results of the 1990 election, where Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) garnered an overwhelming majority of the popular vote. Since they re-imposed house arrest on Suu Kyi 19 months ago, heavy pressure has been building from Western governments, multinational corporations (under pressure from consumer groups), and pro-democracy groups to release Suu Kyi, along with the other approximately 2,000 political prisoners currently being held in Burma.
A recent coup attempt by a former general, severe poverty, and an HIV epidemic have contributed to the weakness of the military regime. Suu Kyi stated upon her release that she will continue to work to promote democracy in Burma, and keep open discussions with the military regime on ways to end the current political crisis. The military government is using Suu Kyi’s release to argue for the lessening of international sanctions. Citizen’s groups, such as the Free Burma Coalition, remain cautiously optimistic. The Coalition has said that it “urges activists and governments around the world to continue monitoring the country’s human rights situation and political progress.”