Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Is Suu Kyi's release imminent?
Speculation is rife that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released soon as part of the "package deal" between the Burmese military leaders and the United States.
Saw Yan Naing of The Irrawaddy.org wrote that Nyan Win, the spokesman for the Rangoon-based National League for Democracy (NLD) commenting on the news report, said: “This is what many people wanted to hear.”
“It is going strengthen the NLD party if she is released. She will organize the election campaign effectively for the party and can perform well on the political stage,” he said.
Min Lwin, a senior Burmese diplomat, told AP in Manila earlier this week: “There is a plan to release her [Suu Kyi] soon ... so she can organize her party.”
Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years. Her latest detention began in May 2003 after convoy of vehicles in which she was traveling was attacked by junta thugs during a canvassing trip at Depayin. Suu Kyi has been unable to speak publicly since.
Charged with violating the terms of her house arrest in May a few weeks before the end of her detention, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a further 18 months in August.
Suu Kyi said she was satisfied with the recent meeting with the US delegation led by Kurt Campbell and she thanked the Burmese regime for allowing it to happen.
Observers say the release of Suu Kyi should not come as a surprise because junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe said in August Suu Kyi would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired if she behaved "well" at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her.
Burmese officials regularly make conciliatory promises before regional meetings but fail to follow them up with action, noted one observer, who pointed out that Thein Sein said the election law would be announced soon during the Asean summit in Cha-am in Thailand in October.
On Sunday, Thein Sein and Min Lwin will attend the US-Asean leaders meeting in Singapore, the first between President Obama and Asean leaders.
Rumors circulating among diplomats in Rangoon suggest Min Lwin will be promoted as Burmese ambassador to the US.
Observers also said a meeting between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe is necessary before the election law is announced because this would help the NLD decide whether to insist on constitutional review before taking part in the election.
Christina Fink, author of a new edition of her book: Living Silence: Burma under Military Rule, also doubts Min Lwin, saying he may have made the comment to ease pressure on the Burmese regime prior to the Singapore summit.
According to Jeffrey Bader, the US senior director for Asian affairs, Obama will make a personal plea for Suu Kyi’s release at the summit.
If they plan to release Suu Kyi, the junta needs to do it very soon to give her and the NLD enough time to decide on whether to participate in the election and prepare an election campaign, Fink said.
She said Suu Kyi should be released before the election and political parties contesting the election are announced.
Burma watcher Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, said the junta’s Constitution excludes Suu Kyi from holding office, so the big questions are whether and how the regime will facilitate her participation in the election.
He said that the other 2,000 political prisoners must also be released.
“The regime should not be negotiating the timing of her release...having raised the possibility of her release they should do so immediately without conditions,” Kingston said.