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Suu Kyi won't accept conditional release: Lawyer

Myanmar's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will not accept conditions on her freedom if the military government releases her this week when her latest period of detention is due to end, her lawyer said today.

world Updated: Nov 10, 2010 12:36 IST

Myanmar's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will not accept conditions on her freedom if the military government releases her this week when her latest period of detention is due to end, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

The charismatic and influential figurehead of Myanmar's fight for democracy could still be a potent threat to the ruling military but it stands to gain diplomatically by freeing her.

Suu Kyi voiced opposition to Myanmar's first election in 20 years, held last Sunday and easily won, as expected, by a party set up by the military. She has called on her loyalists to expose electoral fraud, her lawyer, Nyan Win, said.

US President Barack Obama dismissed the election as stolen while China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs lauded it as "peaceful and successful", illustrating strengthening ties between energy-hungry China and its resource-rich neighbour.

Myanmar's other neighbours and partners in the Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) had urged it to make the election "fair and inclusive" and to release Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners before the vote.

While that did not happen, there is speculation she might be freed from house arrest on Saturday, when a sentence imposed last year for the violation of a security law is due to end.

"Aung San Suu Kyi must be released on or before November 13 because it is the day when the house arrest on her expires," lawyer Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), told Reuters.

"The release must also be unconditional because she will not accept a limited release. As we all know, she never accepted limited freedom in the past," he said.

When released from a six-year stint of house arrest in 1995, Suu Kyi was not allowed to leave the city of Yangon. That led to confrontations as she tried to travel to meet supporters.

Authorities have not said if Suu Kyi, daughter of the hero of Myanmar's campaign for independence from Britain, will be freed or not. She has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.

Releasing Suu Kyi, who has backed moves to isolate the regime, carries risks for the military as it seeks legitimacy for the election and for a new government that will be set up.

The military is guaranteed a quarter of all seats in the newly elected assemblies and the winning party is packed with former military men who gave up their uniforms to stand.

"Taking care of it"
Suu Kyi is still believed to have the same mesmerising influence over the public that helped her NLD win the last election in 1990 in a landslide, a result the military ignored.

She could draw big crowds to the gates of her crumbling lakeside home in Yangon and with a few words could rob the election of any shred of legitimacy it might have.

Suu Kyi's NLD was officially disbanded for not taking part in the polls but she had urged her members to watch how the voting went, Nyan Win said.

"She had told NLD leaders to watch over Sunday's elections and expose malpractice and fraud," he said. "Following her instructions, we are taking care of it now."

While highly unlikely she would call for street protests, her freedom could embolden those who might throng to see her.
Releasing Suu Kyi carries risks for the military, but not freeing her would disappoint Myanmar's ASEAN partners, some of whom are frustrated with the Western criticism it draws to their region as the bloc strives to build economic ties.

Freeing her would also lend weight to the arguments of those who say Western sanctions on Myanmar have failed, and left open opportunities for investment in the resource-rich country to the likes of China, Thailand and India.

Many US and European companies are frustrated by the embargoes.

Jim Webb, chairman of a US Senate subcommittee on East Asia and one of the few Westerners praised by the Myanmar generals, said last month Washington was split on whether to engage with the regime and warned that with continued isolation, Myanmar would effectively become "a province of China".

First Published: Nov 10, 2010 12:33 IST