Myanmar democracy heroine Aung San Suu Kyi gained her freedom Saturday for the first time in 7 1/2 years, as jubilant supporters stormed the lakeside compound that was her home and prison minutes after the country’s military rulers authorized her release.
After the national police chief read Suu Kyi the official order, several thousand supporters at her residence began singing the national anthem when the Nobel Peace Prize laureate poked her head over the gate.
A smiling Suu Kyi, wearing a traditional jacket and a flower in her hair, spent almost 10 minutes asking the cheering crowd to quiet down before speaking briefly. She asked listeners to spread her words to those standing in the back who couldn’t hear.
“If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal. We have a lot of things to do,” Suu Kyi told well-wishers, who quickly swelled to as many as 5,000. She said she would see them again Sunday at the headquarters of her political party.
While her release elated many, from ordinary Myanmar citizens to world leaders, some warned her struggle was far from over.
Amnesty International estimates more than 2,200 political prisoners remain jailed by the junta.
“While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release is certainly welcome, it only marks the end of an unfair sentence that was illegally extended, and is by no means a concession on the part of the authorities,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Salil Shetty.
“The fact remains that authorities should never have arrested her or the many other prisoners of conscience in Burma in the first place, locking them out of the political process.”