14 Nov 2010

World leaders welcome Aung San Suu Kyi's release

7:06 pm on 14 November 2010

World leaders have applauded the release of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, but called on the country's military leaders to free other political prisoners.

More than 1000 people gathered outside the 65-year-old dissident's lakeside house on Saturday after reports that her release was imminent.

Greeting cheering supporters at the gate, Ms Suu Kyi called for unity in Myanmar.

"People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal," she said.

She told the crowd that "there is a time to be quiet and a time to talk", and that she would visit her now-disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) party at their headquarters on Sunday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has spent 15 of the past 21 years in home detention because of her opposition to 48 years of military rule in the former Burma.

'Long overdue'

US President Barack Obama said the release was long overdue, and urged the military government to release all political prisoners, while British Prime Minister David Cameron said her long detention was a travesty.

European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso said Myanmar must ensure Ms Suu Kyi can stay politically active.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regretted she was excluded from the 7 November election, and also called on authorities to free all remaining political prisoners.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, says the international community will be watching Ms Suu Kyi's situation closely.

The election, Myanmar's first in 20 years, was won by an army-backed party, in a poll criticised by Western nations and pro-democracy activists as flawed.

No conditions, says official

A government official has told AFP that no conditions have been put on the release of the pro-democracy leader.

Her supporters have voiced concern that the junta may place restrictions on her activities and movements as it did during her previous brief periods of freedom.

Government-controlled television attributed her release from house arrest to good behaviour "according to the regulations" during the period she was under house arrest.

The latest detention was extended in August last year after a bizarre incident when an American swam across the lake, uninvited, to her house.