Myanmar people overjoyed but worry about Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi`s safety or re-arrest are running high among her adoring supporters.

Yangon: The release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still being celebrated in Myanmar but fears about her safety or re-arrest are running high among her adoring supporters.

The Nobel laureate and daughter of the country`s independence hero was released on Saturday after seven years in detention but many are concerned her freedom could be short-lived if the country`s oppressive army rulers decide to wield their power.

"I`m very worried about her security," said Soe Myint, a taxi driver in Myanmar`s biggest city, Yangon.

"If something happens to her, they will be responsible for this," he added, referring to the army regime that has ruled the former British colony for 48 years.

In a country where distrust of the military runs deep, her supporters would have every reason to be concerned.

Suu Kyi`s motorcade was attacked in May 2003 by pro-junta thugs in the town of Depayin while on a countryside tour. She was placed back under house arrest, which the regime called "protective custody."

Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years in some form of detention because of her fight against military dictatorship in Myanmar and there is little doubt the junta sees her as the biggest threat to its power.

"The Depayin incident is still haunting us," said Hla Thein, a retired teacher. "To be honest, I doubt we can expect any meaningful changes following her release but we are all worried about her."

Suu Kyi has twice been freed and twice re-arrested since she was first placed in detention in July 1989 for "endangering the state."

Trumped up charges

In May last year, Suu Kyi was weeks away from the expiry of a term of house arrest when American intruder John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home saying God had sent him to warn her terrorists would try to assassinate her.

She allowed the intruder to stay for two nights and as a result was given an 18-month extension to her term for breaking a law protecting the state against "subversive elements."

Critics said the charges were trumped up to sideline her from politics. Some of her supporters fear something similar could happen again.

"To my great relief, another John Yettaw did not show up before she was released," added taxi driver Soe Myint. "I thought the military would create some reason to extend her house arrest." Suu Kyi was greeted by thousands of her supporters when she was released on Saturday and she appears not to have lost her charisma and mesmerizing influence on the people. Although she will play no official political role following a November 7 election boycotted by her party and won convincingly by a pro-military party, few think she will fade from the spotlight.

Her supporters expect her to push for reforms and freedoms but know there are limits to how much she can do in a country tightly controlled by the military and governed by a new constitution critics say was designed to keep Suu Kyi at bay.

They are just happy to see her free.

"I don`t think we can expect anything out of her release since it does not depend on her alone. I`m just happy to see her free," said Khin May, a retired bank clerk.

"I will be very glad if nothing happens to her. I hope she doesn`t get arrested again."

Bureau Report