Scepticism over plan to 'free' Aung San Suu Kyi

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The Independent Online

Could detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi be released after polls scheduled to take place next month?

Activists have questioned a report that says Burmese officials have declared their intention to release the Nobel laureate when her current term of house imprisonment concludes on 13 November.

But a news agency report quoted two unidentified officials saying she would be set free, six days after the election planned for 7 November. "November will be an important and busy month for us because of the election and because of Aung San Suu Kyi's release," the Agence France-Presse quoted a Burmese official as saying.

Another unidentified official said: "She will be released on that day according to the law."

The 65-year-old and her National League for Democracy party will play no role in the election, which many Western observers believe will further cement the position of the military. Her party voted to boycott the polls because it said they could not be considered fair while so many political prisoners remained behind bars. Ms Suu Kyi will also not be permitted to vote.

Last night, Mark Farmaner, of the Burma Campaign UK, questioned the report.

"We hope this report is correct, but regime officials have said similar things in the past and Aung San Suu Kyi has remained in detention," he said. "We'll believe it when we see it."

He said even if she were released it may not be as significant as was assumed. "She has been released twice before without there being any political change in the country," he explained.

"It is more likely that the dictatorship will try to use her release to attempt to persuade the international community to relax pressure on them."