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The Elders welcome release of Aung San Suu Kyi and urge release of all political detainees

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Following the release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, The Elders repeat their call for all political prisoners in the country to be released and express concern about Burma's recent national elections, which were neither free nor fair.


Aung San Suu Kyi

The Elders have welcomed the release of honorary Elder Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Desmond Tutu


Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, said:

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s release offers hope to the people of Burma, who face uncertain times following the 7 November elections. She is a global symbol of moral courage and we wish her strength and health as she makes her own transition from such a long period under house arrest.

“We are of course absolutely delighted that she is free, and stand ready to assist her and the people of Burma in any way that we can.”


The Elders said that the government of Burma/Myanmar must also respect Daw Suu Kyi’s political rights as a citizen and not place any conditions on her release. They also called for the release of all the country’s political prisoners.

Mary Robinson


“Releasing Aung San Suu Kyi is a very important gesture,” said Mary Robinson. “I am of course delighted that she has been freed and hope that some of us may be able to meet her before too long.

“But her release should not detract attention from more than two thousand other political prisoners who remain incarcerated. We should not forget that Daw Suu Kyi’s detention served to deny the will of the people at the last elections more than two decades ago and to silence her. Little seems to have changed in that regard.”

The 7 November elections, which were the first since 1990, cannot be described as free and fair. For this reason, Daw Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, refused to take part in the poll under new election laws, and was subsequently disbanded.

However, The Elders also respect the difficult decision by some political parties and their supporters to take part in the election as one of the few ways they might gain a voice in parliament, despite the flawed nature of the electoral process. Whether their decision will bear fruit remains to be seen. The coming months may be unpredictable and uncertain.

While early results in the elections appear to show that a small number of democratic and ethnic group candidates have won seats, the overall process placed significant restrictions on political participation rather than opening it up. Parties associated with the military have claimed overwhelming victory. Reports by opposition parties of ballot rigging, intimidation and manipulation indicate that much more needs to be done by the government to convince its own citizens and the international community that it is serious about greater political participation and reconciliation.

Reports that tens of thousands of refugees fled across the border into Thailand following post-election fighting between government forces and armed groups are also extremely worrying.

Jimmy Carter


Jimmy Carter said:

“We urge the government to maintain the ceasefires with the armed groups. Burma’s neighbours, especially China and India, have a great deal of interest in stability in the region and I hope they will also try to encourage dialogue between the government and ethnic groups.

“It is sad to see a country of such great natural wealth that is so fractured and unable to properly protect and care for its people in a way that allows all of them to prosper.”

The humanitarian situation across the entire country is dire and deserves much more attention from donor countries. Burma/Myanmar receives a fraction of the aid of other countries per capita and some revision of aid levels and criteria for assistance are clearly necessary. The Elders call on donors to take more active and imaginative approaches to addressing Burma/Myanmar’s urgent health, education and food needs.


 About The Elders

The Elders are an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace- building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.


More information

Read more about the Elders’ work on Burma.
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