Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in Myanmar on Saturday November 13. She has spent most of the last 18 years under house arrest for promoting political democracy in Myanmar. The UN, the US, and the EU have condemned her imprisonment as a human rights violation.
She was scheduled to be released sooner, but was given an additional 18 month sentence for violating Myanmar security law after giving an interview to american John Yettaw who swam to her lakeside house to escape security checkpoints. Yettaw had been sentenced to seven years hard labor but was released in August 2009 after the intervention of US Senator Jim Webb. The 18 month extension was probably timed to schedule her release six days after the first election in the country in 20 years.
On November 12, four UN human rights experts urged the government to release her and over 2,200 other political detainees. There was no announcement of the release of other political prisoners. An editorial in the New York Times argued that the UN and larger powers are holding Myanmar to a double standard by applying economic sanctions to Myanmar, but not China, who holds fellow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. Times contributor Brahma Chellaney suggested sanctions against Myanmar should be dropped.
Not only does Myanmar suffer for the economic sanctions, but ethnic unrest and violence at the time of the elections caused over 15,000 people to flee to Thailand for refuge. And Myanmar is still recovering from cyclone Giri, which ravaged Myanmar on October 22, destroying over 20,000 homes, flooding 17,500 acres of crops, and sweeping away 50,000 acres of fish and shrimp breeding ponds. Tens of thousands were left homeless.
In Myebon, the western township most affected by the cyclone, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has facilitated the transportation of donated medical supplies to rural health facilities.