Myanmar`s Suu Kyi on cusp of freedom

Myanmar`s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is on the verge of being freed from house arrest.

Last Updated: Nov 13, 2010, 00:47 AM IST

Yangon: Myanmar`s democracy icon Aung San
Suu Kyi is on the verge of being freed from house arrest,
officials in the military-ruled country said on Friday, as
anticipation grew among her legions of supporters.

Security was stepped up in Yangon, where Suu Kyi
remained confined to her crumbling lakeside mansion, with
police vehicles patrolling the city.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, locked up for most of
the past two decades, is still seen as the biggest threat to
the junta, but her freedom appears to be a price it is willing
to pay to deflect criticism of elections held on Sunday.

"The authorities will release her. It is certain," a
government official told AFP, speaking on condition of
anonymity.

Lawyers for the 65-year-old dissident say her current
term of house arrest started with her imprisonment on May 14
last year and so is due to end on Saturday.

"She will be released for sure as planned," said
another government official who also declined to be named.
Suu Kyi`s detention was extended by 18 months in
August last year over a bizarre incident in which an American
swam uninvited to her lakeside home, keeping her off the scene
for the first election in 20 years.

Her supporters said they expected her to be released
but were still awaiting confirmation from the authorities.
"They cannot extend her detention according to the
law," said one of her lawyers, Nyan Win. "They should release
her for the country."

The daughter of Myanmar`s founding father General
Aung San swept her National League for Democracy (NLD) to
victory in elections two decades ago, but the party was never
allowed to take power.

Her supporters have said she will hold a news
conference at the NLD`s headquarters if freed, suggesting she
is likely to resist any attempt by the authorities to rein in
her political activities.

Some observers believe her release could come with
restrictions to ensure she cannot threaten the generals` hold
on power.

Nyan Win has suggested she would refuse to accept
any conditions on her release, as in the past when she tried
in vain to leave Yangon in defiance of the junta`s orders.

Dozens of supporters gathered at the NLD`s
headquarters, where a banner hung alongside two portraits of
their leader read: "The time is here for the release of Aung
San Suu Kyi."

Some NLD members were planning to donate blood to a
local hospital to mark her release.

When the softly-spoken but indomitable opposition
leader was last released in 2002 she drew huge crowds wherever
she went -- a reminder that years of detention had not dimmed
her immense popularity.

PTI