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Supporters wait for Suu Kyi news
Crowds gather near Myanmar opposition leader's home and party office as expiry of detention order nears.
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2010 10:59 GMT
Scores of followers have been holding vigils in anticipation of Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest [AFP]

Throngs of supporters of Myanmar's detained opposition leader have been gathering near her home and outside her party headquarters waiting for news of her release.

Reports earlier said the military government had signed the release order for Aung San Suu Kyi, but the military rulers have remained silent over the issue.

Her latest detention order expires on Saturday.

Scores of people holding vigils over the last few days had hoped to see the 65-year-old opposition leader, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention, freed on Friday.

Security was sharply up in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city where Aung San Suu Kyi lives, with riot police cruising the streets in lorries and keeping watch on major junctions.

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Crowds gathered on Saturday at the National League for Democracy (NLD)  headquarters, with women cooking food and people bringing flowers to place before posters of Aung San Suu Kyi and her late father, the revered independence fighter General Aung San.

Many wore T-shirts reading "We stand with Aung San Suu Kyi" and "Freedom from Fear", a title of one of her books.

Other supporters gathered around a barbed wire barricade leading to her home in a residential area in Yangon.

"My sources tell me that the release order has been signed," Tin Oo, the NLD vice-chairman, said. "I hope she will be released."

Tin Oo did not say when Aung San Suu Kyi would be freed or when the order had been signed.

Release 'overdue'

Bo Hla Tint, who was elected as a representative of the NLD in 1990 but fled Myanmar when the military rejected the election results, said he was confident she could be freed as her release is long "overdue".

However, Al Jazeera's special correspondent in Yangon, who who cannot be identified for security reasons, said it is a "very confusing situation".

"Rumours continue to circulate and people speculate when she may be released," he said.

"We have heard reports that release papers had been served by the military regime to Aung San Suu Kyi, clearing the way for her release.

"But we've spoken to her lawyer once again and he says that they still have nothing about when she can be released. The lawyer said the papers have not been served [and] that it is just rumours."

The earlier reports quoted government insiders, state officials and well-connected sources as saying Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar's military ruler, had signed an order for her release.

But in one of the world's most secretive states, few outside Than Shwe's inner circle really know what is going on. Analysts and Myanmar-based diplomats say even his ministers are kept in the dark.

Aung San Suu Kyi who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and the 1990 elections in a landslide.

One government official said he believed Aung San Suu Kyi would be released but could not confirm it.

'Flawed' election

Myanmar held its first election in 20 years last Sunday which was won by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The vote was widely seen as flawed and fraudulent as the ruling generals sought to strengthen their grip on power.

With the election out of the way, the generals might seek to win some international legitimacy by freeing Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, success is far from assured. The US reacted to news of Aung San Suu Kyi's imminent release saying that "our policy is that all political prisoners in Burma need to be released".

Many believe expectation of Suu Kyi's release is
 premature at such a critical juncture post polls [AFP]

"Burma needs to have a meaningful dialogue with all society," PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, said.

"It needs to change its relationship with its people. So it is unclear whether any one step will change out policy. There are many, many things that Burma has to do."

Many believe expectation of Aung San Suu Kyi's release is premature at such a critical juncture in a transition from army rule to army-dominated democracy.

The military government might see her release as a threat to its political process as a new government has yet to be formed.

In a country where the courts always favour the military, there could be any number of reasons the authorities could use to detain Aung San Suu Kyi beyond the 18 months she was given for allowing an American intruder to stay at her home for two nights last year.

Her unexpected visitor, John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her home to warn Aung San Suu Kyi "terrorists" would try to kill her, and God had sent him to save her.

Aung San Suu Kyi was first detained in 1989 and freed for the first time in 1995. She was detained again in 2000, released in 2002 and detained again in 2003 after she and some supporters were attacked by a gang on a trip to the provinces.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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