Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, has been released after seven years of house arrest.
News agencies quoted witnesses as saying that she was meeting crowds of supporters at the gate of her home in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, soon after her release on Saturday.
Earlier, witnesses said hundreds of people rushed to her home after the authorities removed barbed-wire barricades in front of her compound.
“We must work together in unison to achieve our goal”
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar opposition leader, shortly after her release
Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), later appeared at the gate of her compound, the crowd chanted, cheered and sang the national anthem.
“We must work together in unison to achieve our goal,” she told the cheering crowd.
Al Jazeera’s special correspondent reporting from near her home in Yangon said the crowd let out a huge cheer when the police vehicle left the compound, ending the latest period of arrest.
“Where I’m standing now, I can see no security forces around her house. The barricades that have been in place for the last seven years were moved aside to allow those people to come in.
“It was almost impossible for her to speak,” our special correspondent said, adding that the cheering did not die down for at least 20 or 30 minutes while she stood there.
A smiling Aung San Suu Kyi wearing a traditional jacket and a flower in her hair told the crowd that she will stay inside her house tonight.
Close to 1,000 people, including journalists, had gathered near her lakeside house throughout the day, many chanting “Release Aung San Suu Kyi” and “Long live Aung San Suu Kyi”. Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with messages pledging to stand with her.
Reuters news agency reported quoting a witness that Aung San Suu Kyi, met a lawyer and a doctor inside her home shortly before she appeared at the gate.
A government official said the release order was read by the authorities to her.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest detention, which was due to expire on Saturday, dates from last August when a court found she had broken a security law by allowing an American intruder to stay at her home for two nights.
The release of one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners came a week after an election that was swept by military-backed candidates and decried by many nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nyo Myint, an NLD spokesperson, said: “I have no words to say. She just sacrificed for the people, who have really suffered. This is the moment that we the Burmese people hoped for more than 20 years.
“All the international leaders, not only the US president but also the Chinese president, Asean, [the] UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon should visit Burma [as it was known then] as soon as possible.”
Nyo Myint said the problem was that the ruling generals have not changed anything in the past 20 years.
“We thank the people supporting the Burmese democratisation, but we need to have it more solid and more national reconciliation,” he added.
In an immediate reaction, Barack Obama, the US president, said in a statement released by the White House press office that the US welcomes her “long overdue” release.
“She is a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world,” Obama said in the statement.
“Whether Aung San Suu Kyi is living in the prison of her house, or the prison of her country, does not change the fact that she, and the political opposition she represents, has been systematically silenced, incarcerated, and deprived of any opportunity to engage in political processes that could change Burma.”
Obama said it was time for the military government to release all other political prisoners.
Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said on Saturday he was “very, very relieved” with her release and hoped that she will not be detained again.
“I’m very, very relieved and hope that this will contribute to true national reconciliation in Myanmar and that Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to play a role in bringing national reconciliation,” Surin told AFP.
Asean is a 10-member regional bloc which includes Myanmar.
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