By BosNewsLife Asia Service
RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife)– Burma’s military government on Saturday, November 13, freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent most of the last two decades in detention.
The release of the military arch-rival was expected to be welcomed by minorities such as the embattled Karen community, which include many Christians who were forced to flee the country in recent days following controversial elections.
The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), an outgunned rebel force fighting for more rights and autonomy, has made clear it would accept the Nobel Peace Prize winner as the country’s new leader, an earlier BosNewsLife investigation found.
Suu Kyi appeared briefly in front of her lakeside crumbling mansion in Rangoon, where she spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention, to tell a jubilant crowd: “We must work together in unison to achieve our goal.”
Witnesses said she received and put a flower in her hair, which became her trade mark during public appearances. She then retreated back inside her home for the first meeting with her National League for Democracy party in seven years.
The 65-year-old Suu Kyi, whose latest period of detention spanned 7 1/2 years, has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation ruled by the military since 1962.
In recent days some 15,000 Burmese refugees, including many Christian Karen, fled into Thailand earlier this week, although many have since returned across the border despite security concerns, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
The troubles followed last weekend’s first ever elections in years, although the international community described the vote as unfair amid reports of massive fraud. There was fighting reported between KNLA and government forces.
Christian rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says the military have detained at least 100 villagers amid an ongoing government crackdown on predominantly Christian Karen, seen as a threat to its power base.
“…The international community, led by the UN, must intensify its efforts to convince the regime to enter into a meaningful dialog with the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic nationalities,” added CSW East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers. “It is essential that genuine representatives of the ethnic nationalities are fully involved and included in that process.”