Newly freed Suu Kyi calls for 'non-violent revolution'

15th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Newly freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday called for a "non-violent revolution" in Myanmar as she knuckled down to the task of rebuilding her weakened opposition movement.

Speaking at her party headquarters in Yangon, where she met senior regional members for the first time in years, she told the BBC she was sure democracy would eventually come to her country, although she did not know when.

"I think we also have to try to make this thing happen... Velvet revolution sounds a little strange in the context of the military, but a non-violent revolution. Let's put it that way," the 65-year-old said.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest on Saturday, less than a week after a controversial election that cemented the junta's decades-long grip on power but was widely criticised by democracy activists and Western leaders as a sham.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been locked up by Myanmar's regime for 15 of the past 21 years, gave her first political speech in seven years on Sunday, appealing to thousands of her jubilant supporters for unity.

She said in her latest interview, published on the BBC website, that she would take any opportunity for talks with the ruling military junta, which she wanted to change rather than for it to fall.

"I don't want to see the military falling. I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism," she said.

"I think it's quite obvious what the people want; the people just want better lives based on security and on freedom."

A spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) said he did not know whether a letter would be sent to junta leader Than Shwe to request a meeting.

"We have asked since the beginning for dialogue. She is always ready for dialogue," the spokesman, Nyan Win, told AFP.

Suu Kyi has had only limited contact with the outside world for most of the past two decades, but the telephone line at her crumbling lakeside mansion will be restored "soon", an unidentified Myanmar official told AFP.

Nyan Win said the mother-of-two is also hoping that her youngest son Kim Aris will be able travel to Yangon and join her on a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda, the site of Suu Kyi's first political speech in 1988.

Aris, who lives in Britain, travelled to the Thai capital ahead of his mother's release but it was unclear whether he had received a visa to enter Myanmar.

Attention is now focused on whether Suu Kyi can unite the country's deeply divided opposition and bring change to the impoverished nation.

"I want to work with all democratic forces," she told supporters on Sunday, saying she wanted to "hear the voice of the people" before deciding her course of action.

The daughter of the nation's assassinated independence hero Aung San carries a weight of expectation among her followers for a better future after almost half a century of military dictatorship.

There was a new air of optimism on the streets of Yangon but some observers have warned that the dissident is no "miracle worker".

"She has always voluntarily tested the military authorities, has always wanted to push the red line drawn by the regime," said Renaud Egreteau, a Myanmar expert at the University of Hong Kong.

But with a powerful junta watching her every move, the situation "might make her avoid a direct confrontation for the time being", he added.

Suu Kyi's party boycotted the November 7 vote, a decision that deeply split the opposition. Some former members of her party left to stand in the poll, prompting accusations of betrayal from some of her closest associates.

The opposition leader swept the NLD to victory in a 1990 election, but it was never allowed to take power.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that Suu Kyi's release should be the first step towards the people of Myanmar being able to choose their leaders.

Her struggle has come at a high personal cost: her British husband died in 1999 and, in the final stages of his battle with cancer, the junta refused him a visa to see his wife. She has never met her grandchildren.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article