After spending 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi is set to be released, according to the BBC.
Military authorities have reportedly signed an order authorising the release of the Burmese pro-democracy leader, when the term of her house arrest expires this Sunday.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s continuing incarceration has become a cause célèbre in the west. Just last week, Gordon Brown took to Twitter to call for her release.
In Burma, she is an enduring symbol of resistance against the military regime that have controlled the state since 1990, despite the efforts of the Burmese regime to overshadow her. As Ambika Reddy pointed out in last week’s New Statesman:
Than Shwe [the leader of Burma’s military junta] has devoted himself to constructing an edifice that would loom over Aung San Suu Kyi, rooting the army’s claim to power in the nation’s traditional iconography. That this is a hopelessly atavistic endeavour goes without saying. It threatens to leave Burma becalmed in a settlement in which the people’s demands for the most miserable basics of life continue to be ignored, and in which border wars drag on.
Peter Popham explained in the New Statesman‘s profile of Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this summer why the military junta fears a woman now of pensionable age:
Three times before – in 1990, 1995 and 2002 – [the junta] made the mistake of underestimating her appeal. The first time, the NLD humiliated the regime’s proxy, the National Unity Party, by winning 80 per cent of the seats in parliament. The second time, when she was released from her first spell of house arrest, thousands risked jail every week to squat outside the gates of her home and listen to her speak. The third time, when, after months of delay, she was at last allowed to travel outside Rangoon, peasants walked through the jungle for days for a chance to see her.
Whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi will actually be released remains to be seen. A spokesman for the Burma Campaign UK attempted to dampen speculation.
“There are rumours that the police are outside her house and could be delivering documents connected to her freedom. However, we really don’t know. If there are conditions attached to her release she might not agree to it.”
The AFP, however, reported sources who claimed: “The authorities will release her. It is certain”.
Until she if free, nothing can be guaranteed, particularly in Burma’s current state, undergoing a major political transformation.”The end of the reigns of Burmese rulers are always moments of uncertainty,” explains Ambika Reddy. “The consequences are utterly unpredictable.”