Skip to main content

Party members fear chances of Suu Kyi's release are dim

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Will Aung San Suu Kyi go free?
  • Rumors swirl through the day she will be released
  • Five to six police trucks are parked near Suu Kyi's house
  • The Nobel Peace laureate's house arrest is due to end on Saturday

(CNN) -- Party members who had gathered by the hundreds at the National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday were told to go home, dashing hopes that democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi would be released from house arrest.

Rumors had swirled throughout the day that Suu Kyi would be freed Friday. A crowd of reporters turned up near her Yangon home.

About five to six police trucks were parked near the house. One was seen entering the compound.

Myanmar's military junta has said it plans to release Suu Kyi, but it did not say when. Many now hope it will happen Saturday, when her house arrest is scheduled to end.

U.N. chief calls for Suu Kyi release
Images Myanmar does not want you to see
Myanmar's controversial election
2008: Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced

"The plan to release Suu Kyi is on, but the actual plan on the day of her release is not known yet," said an official who is familiar with the government's planning but not allowed to speak publicly on the matter.

One of her lawyers, Nyan Win, said he believed Suu Kyi will be released Saturday evening.

Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Security has been stepped up in Myanmar, but it was unclear whether that was because of Suu Kyi's possible release or because of the country's first elections in two decades, which took place Sunday.

"If they release her, it's not because her term is up. They can always come up with excuses to detain her," said Maung Zarni, a research fellow on Myanmar at the London School of Economics.

Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's Myanmar specialist, said it makes "perfect sense" for the regime to free her since she's "no longer an electoral threat to them." She was unable to participate in the elections because of her current court conviction.

There have been calls around the world for her release, including one from President Barack Obama during his current trip to Asia. However, Zawacki believes she will be freed only because the nation's ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, believes it's in his interest, not because of international pressure.

"I don't anticipate they will release her without conditions," Zawacki said. And if she violated any conditions of release, he said, she could be arrested again.

The ruling military junta has been slowly releasing official election results, but critics say a victory for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party is all but certain. Critics called the elections a fraud aimed at creating the facade of democracy in Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.

The junta has refused to allow international media into Myanmar to cover the elections and their aftermath. It also refused to allow international monitors to oversee the election.

"The elections were billed as one of the final elements of the so-called seven-step roadmap to democracy," said a statement Friday from United Nations human rights experts.

"True democratic transition will require genuine dialogue with all stakeholders including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the various ethnic minorities that were excluded from the electoral process," They said. "These prominent voices are necessary if Myanmar's democratic transition is to have a chance of succeeding."

The Burma Campaign UK, which promotes human rights in Myanmar, said the "blatant rigging of the November 7 election" and the junta's hard-line positions could not bode well for Suu Kyi.

"Conversely, they could be calculating that by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi they will receive so much positive publicity it will counter the negative attention on the election," the group said.

If Suu Kyi is released Saturday, one of the first things she'll do is challenge the legitimacy of the elections, Zarni said.

She'll also meet with leaders of her political party and challenge the legitimacy of Myanmar's recently overhauled constitution, which the military regime redrafted to tighten its grip on the country, Zarni added.

Her release would have to be approved by Shwe, Zarni said. As it is, Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest at his discretion, Zarni said.

She has made demands as well.

"She has made it categorically clear that she will not accept conditions; that she will not walk out of the house with conditions," Zarni said.

Such limitations could include restrictions on where she could go, with whom she could meet and how she could communicate. For instance, she wants a Twitter account so she can communicate with Myanmar's younger population, Zarni said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. In 1990. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won parliamentary elections by a landslide, but the military junta rejected the results.

The regime recently passed a law that made her ineligible to stand in Sunday's elections because of her court conviction last year. She was found guilty of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which American John Yettaw swam uninvited to her lakeside house in Yangon and briefly stayed there.

Suu Kyi's supporters have said that the conviction was simply a way to remove her from the election campaign.

On Thursday, Myanmar's Supreme Court rejected Suu Kyi's appeal for release, said Nyan Win, her lawyer. It was Suu Kyi's last chance to appeal, but the loss was expected. She lost a similar appeal in a lower court in February.

Before Sunday's elections, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Myanmar's junta to release Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners so that the voting could be deemed legitimate.

Part of complete coverage on
China, India key to Myanmar reform
Activist Aung San Suu Kyi has made a passionate plea to build democracy in Myanmar, but do China and India hold key to change?
Release a catalyst for change?
Nyi Nyi Aung learned the news just before sunrise Saturday: the woman who has inspired him in his two-decade-long struggle was free.
Suu Kyi: Symbol of hope
She is small but only in physical stature. Aung San Suu Kyi is the very embodiment of Myanmar's long struggle for democracy.
Myanmar's recent history
Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962.
Cyclone exposed secrets
Amid the destruction of Nargis, CNN was able to see firsthand the spirit of Myanmar's people.
Junta's grip on economy
Analysts say "bad governance" has led to the development of two parallel economies.