Britain calls Aung San Suu Kyi's release 'long overdue'

13th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the release Saturday of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was "long overdue", branding her detention a "travesty".

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the country's regime now needed to begin a "genuine dialogue" with her and other opposition groups and she should be allowed to take "a role of her choosing" in Myanmar's political life.

He added that Myanmar still had many problems, saying more than 2,000 political prisoners remained in detention there and dismissing as a "sham" last week's elections from which Suu Kyi was excluded.

"The world should not think that this, on its own, means the Burmese regime has changed," Hague said.

Britain is the former colonial power in Myanmar, which achieved its independence as Burma in 1948, and was home to Suu Kyi when she was a student at Oxford University.

Cameron said in a brief statement: "This is long overdue. Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom of speech, democracy and human rights.

"Her detention was a travesty, designed only to silence the voice of the Burmese people. Freedom is Aung San Suu Kyi's right. The Burmese regime must now uphold it."

Hague said her release should kick-start the resolution of Myanmar's "many problems".

"Aung San Suu Kyi's arbitrary detention for most of the last 20 years has been deeply unjust," he said in a statement.

"Her fortitude in the face of this outrage has been inspirational. I welcome news of her release.

"She must now be allowed to assume a role of her choosing in the political life of her country without further hindrance or restriction."

He added: "Last week's sham elections will not bring peace and prosperity to Burma.

"The regime now needs to release the other 2,100 political prisoners and begin a genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and all opposition and ethnic groups."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leader of junior governing coalition party the Liberal Democrats, said Saturday's developments should not mask Myanmar's "appalling" human rights record.

"Welcome as this news is, we should not allow it to hide the fact that the Burmese regime still has an appalling human rights record and has just overseen sham elections designed solely to keep the military in power," he said.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown, who has regularly corresponded with Suu Kyi and profiled her in a 2007 book entitled "Courage", said there would be "joy around the world" at the release of "the world's most renowned and courageous prisoner of conscience".

"Her release proves that no injustice can last forever, and while Burma's junta can continue its policy of repression it has never been able to wholly silence her voice," he said.

"Despite enduring two decades of separation, her family has displayed great strength which has proved an inspiration to us all.

"Her release from house arrest -- where she has spent 15 of the last 21 years -- is only a partial victory, because her liberation and that of the Burmese people will not be complete until she is able to take up her position as the rightful leader of her country.

"Support from people of good conscience everywhere must continue as she fights for the freedom of her people."

© 2010 AFP

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