Myanmar junta could free Suu Kyi in November

Suu Kyi

The political party of Myanmar’s detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has heard that the military regime could set her free in November, a spokesman said on Monday.

The Nobel peace laureate has been kept in detention for 14 of the past 20 years, and in August she was ordered to spend another 18 months in detention after being convicted over an incident in which a US man swam to her house.

According to media reports and local residents, Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo told a meeting of local officials in central Myanmar four days ago that her release would come in November.

“We also heard about it. But it’s difficult to confirm,” Nyan Win, her lawyer and a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party told AFP. But he added that the news was “not a strange thing at all”.

“If we calculate the period, Daw Suu’s house arrest will be completed in November,” he said.

A local resident in the town of Kyaukpadaung, where the meeting was held, said he had heard the same date from witnesses of the speech.

“We were told by some local officials who attended the meeting last Thursday that… Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be released in November,” he said, asking not to be named. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi’s house arrest remains a sensitive issue in Myanmar and officials contacted by AFP refused to comment on the minister’s remarks.

The extension of her detention sparked international outrage as it is expected to keep her off the stage for elections promised by the regime some time this year, although a date for the polls has not yet been announced.

An initial appeal by her lawyers to overturn the sentence was rejected and a decision from Myanmar’s top court on another appeal is expected in the next three weeks.

Her NLD won a landslide victory in the last democratic elections in 1990, but the junta, which has ruled Myanmar since 1962, never allowed the party to take office.

In recent months the United States, followed by the European Union, has shifted towards a policy of greater engagement with Myanmar, as sanctions have failed to bear fruit.

Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, noted last week there had been a “mixed bag” from Myanmar on calls for political reform.

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