Myanmar junta releases Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar's military junta released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest Saturday to the cheers of thousands of her supporters gathered outside her compound, dpa reported.
Police cars arrived at Suu Kyi's compound about 5:30 pm and sent officials in to deliver her release papers.
"She is free now," announced Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win, to the cheering crowd. He asked her followers to be disciplined.
Thousands of Suu Kyi supporters, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and reporters waited outside her residence in Yangon since Friday in anticipation.
Supporters also gathered at the NLD headquarters in Yangon, where Suu Kyi, 65, was expected to go after her release.
NLD members sported T-shirts with the legend, "We stand with Aung San Suu Kyi" in English.
"I love her very much," said one elderly woman. "She will save the country."
Security personnel did not prevent the crowds from gathering, which was unusual in the military-controlled state.
Suu Kyi is serving an 18-month house-arrest handed down by a criminal court in July 2009 for breaking the terms of her previous incarceration by allowing an uninvited US national to swim to her lakeside home.
The sentence expired Saturday because it began on May 13, 2009, when she was last arrested.
The international community called for her release before the election a week ago, the country's first in 20 years.
The proxy party of the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was expected to win by a landslide. The final results have yet to be announced.
The polls have been widely condemned for being neither free nor fair and the USDP was accused of tampering with advance votes and using inducements and intimidation to win its seats.
In the capital Naypyitaw, senior junta member Shwe Mann, for instance, won in his constituency with 38,572 votes, of which 21,931 were advance votes, local media reports said.
It is widely believed that the regime agreed to release Suu Kyi to deflect international condemnation of the election which may, despite its many flaws, signal a step forward for the country. Myanmar, also called Burma, has been under military rule since 1962.
Suu Kyi will have much to do.
"Daw (Madam) Aung San Suu Kyi will have to do a lot of jobs including looking into the complaints from states and divisions about the unfair elections," said HIV/AIDS campaign leader Phy Phy Thin.
The Nobel Peace laureate will also need to address divisions among her political supporters. A faction of the NLD, the National Democratic Force, broke away to contest the elections.
It performed poorly, partly because of the rigged polls but also because of lack of support from the NLD who chose to boycott the polls and urged people not to vote, analysts said.