Burmese junta releases Suu Kyi from house arrest

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The Independent Online

The padlock was removed from the compound of Aung San Suu Kyi's house in Rangoon yesterday, and Burma's military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), announced it was lifting her latest house arrest by expressing its "appreciation of the co-operation of the senior National League for Democracy [NLD] members for staying at home, and its regret over the inconvenience to those involved".

The padlock was removed from the compound of Aung San Suu Kyi's house in Rangoon yesterday, and Burma's military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), announced it was lifting her latest house arrest by expressing its "appreciation of the co-operation of the senior National League for Democracy [NLD] members for staying at home, and its regret over the inconvenience to those involved".

After nearly two weeks locked in her own home, Ms Suu Kyi was free to greet visitors and, conceivably, to travel to the headquarters of her party, the NLD, in Rangoon.

There was no hint, however, in the characteristically saccharine announcement, that Ms Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was at liberty to travel outside the Rangoon city limits. Her attempt to do so on 24 August with 14 party colleagues provoked the arrest.

Foreign diplomats were once again allowed to visit Ms Suu Kyi yesterday. A British diplomat said he had found her in good spirits and "well in her mind", although she seemed to have lost weight after the nine-day enforced camp outside the city that followed her attempt to travel south to meet party activists.

In lifting some of the restrictions and broadcasting the fact to the world, the military council was clearly responding to anger from foreign governments, notably the United States and Britain, that followed the forced return of Ms Suu Kyi and her colleagues, in handcuffs, to Rangoon.

In a statement yesterday, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said: "I am relieved Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues are safe and well ... The detention and restrictions on her movements are inexcusable breaches of universal civil and political rights.

"We must also remember that the National League for Democracy is still repressed by the SPDC ... Further progress is necessary before the NLD can even regain its former position, let alone address the serious problems in Burma. Britain will not ease the pressure we place on the regime."

Since the imposition of de facto house arrest, Burma's state-controlled media have spoken darkly of links between the NLD leader and terrorists. On Monday, a senior member of the military council said "destructive groups must be crushed", in an apparent reference to the party. The raid on its headquarters on 2 September was a first, and it is feared that documents seized in the raid could be used in a show trial to close the NLD.

Yesterday's relaxation did nothing to remove such fears.

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