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Pro-democracy activists express measured hope for Burma following release of Suu Kyi

More than 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention

by David Koch

A pro-democracy protester stands beside a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi at a demonstration in Ottawa on November 6.
A pro-democracy protester stands beside a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi at a demonstration in Ottawa on November 6.

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest Saturday, prompting mixed reactions from local activists.

Suu Kyi's safety remains in jeopardy under Burma's repressive military junta, warned Tin Maung Htoo, the Executive Director of the Canadian Friends of Burma (CFB).

"The concern for us is that there have been many attempts on her life in the past," Htoo said.

The ruling military junta never recognized the results of an election in 1990 in which Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide victory.

Instead, she was confined to house arrest. She spent the better part of the last two decades in detention.

Htoo warned on Saturday that the regime may still restrict Suu Kyi's basic freedoms.

"We are not sure if there are any conditions attached to her release," he said.

The end of her custody comes just days after the junta held Burma's first election in 20 years.

But the poll was widely condemned as a sham that was designed to extend the lifespan of the military regime.

"There's still no democracy in Burma," said Nisha Toomey, a CFS board member who spent several years working with ethnic refugees in Thailand near the Burmese border.

But Toomey said that the release of Suu Kyi is a cause for celebration.

"It's a great day for humanity," she said.

"But who knows how long it's going to last."


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