Burmese Political prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has spent fifteen of the last twenty years under house arrest. Detained after her political party The National League for Democracy gained a majority vote in the 1990 Burmese general elections, her access to media, diplomats and foreign visitors has been restricted in an attempt to limit her political power. On the 13th of November 2010, however, she was finally released. This has been seen as a symbol of success for freedom of speech, democracy and human rights and prompted a unified international celebration. Hundreds of supporters went to meet her at her house upon news of her new found independence. . Barack Obama and David Cameron called it “long overdue” while Gordon Brown issued a statement saying it will “bring joy around the world”.
Two days after her release, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to her lifelong work, promoting change and organising political meetings with the aim of ending Burma’s military dictatorship. Her goal is revolution without violence. She has stated that for her, revolution means a great change for the better; the ideal a democratic Burma. Her optimism, after years of imprisonment, is surely astounding. Although she has been released, the Burmese government are watching her meticulously and keeping her and her political party under close surveillance.
The Burmese General elections on the 14th November 2010 were the first elections in Burma in twenty years. Suu Kyi was disqualified by the military regime from campaigning for office as a result of her past conviction and strong links with political activism. The two new Chambers of parliaments in Burma will reserve a quarter of their seats for the Burmese military elite and a vote of over 75% will be needed to legitimise any constitutional change. This means the deciding vote will be left in the hands of the military dictatorship. Even the 75% of the chambers made up of civilians will largely be dominated by recently resigned, ex-military figures. The Union Solidarity and Development Party have gained a majority in both chambers. This is unsurprising, given that they are the political party with the largest military support base and military backing. Burmese law states that members of a religious order cannot become involved in politics and elections, preventing Burmese monks, many of whom are anti-military and pro-democracy, from opposing the regime.
The Amnesty International ‘Burma Campaign’ which had been campaigning for Aung San Suu’s release knows that even now the fight is not over. 2,002 political prisoners still remain in Burma, all under house arrest or detained in prison facilities. Each prisoner is further evidence of repressive rule by the Burmese junta, a regime accused by Harvard Law School of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a regime without freedom of speech and without freedom of political representation. The figurehead of resistance in Burma may be free at last, but many other dissidents will continue to be silenced as long as this regime is in power.