Suu Kyi release met with skepticism

Nov 10, 2009 (DVB), Comments made by a Burmese government official that detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could soon be released have been greeted with skepticism by party members.

The announcement was made by the director general of Burma's foreign ministry, Min Lwin, as he boarded a plane in Manila, Philippines. He said that the junta may allow her to play a role in elections next year.

Suu Kyi was sentenced in August to a further 18 months under house arrest, which looked set to keep her away from any involvement in the elections.

Members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have however remained wary of heightened expectations following the comment.

"I am a little bit cautious about when and how she would be free" said Nyo Ohn Myint, foreign affairs secretary of the NLD, Liberated Areas (NLD-LA), while NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said that he "hopes it comes true".

Several clauses in Burma's controversial 2008 constitution appear to prohibit her involvement in elections. The government has said that anyone married to a foreigner or previously incarcerated cannot compete for office, and Suu Kyi falls into both those categories.

"The problem is, the 2008 constitution does not really allow the other political stakeholders to have their say, but we will decide our priorities when she is free," Nyo Ohn Myint said.

The NLD won more than 80 percent of votes in the last elections to be held in Burma in 1990, following which Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest.

The last time she was free, in 2003, a convoy she was travelling in was attacked by junta-backed thugs, who killed around 70 of her supporters. The government again imprisoned her following the incident, citing fears over her own safety.

Khin Ohnmar, from the Thailand-based Burma Partnership, said however that it was unlikely she would be freed anytime soon.

"I doubt they will actually release her, and from their side it's too soon to give in after the meeting with the Americans," she said.

Last week the most senior-level US delegation to visit Burma since 1995 met with both the Burmese prime minister and Suu Kyi.

Since the US announced a new era of engagement with the regime, the military generals appear to have somewhat eased restrictions on political opposition in Burma, although some critics believe this to be merely a public relations exercise.

"It may be the same old tactic, but letting her go is so dangerous for the regime because people would be questioning why, and that's a real problem for them," said Khin Ohmar.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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