Cambodian human rights activists welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in Burma over the weekend, hailing it as a step toward democracy but warning that more needs done there.
Suu Kyi was released on Saturday, imprisoned or under house arrest for most of the last 20 years. The release comes following the conclusion of elections in Burma, also called Myanmar, that were widely denounced as fraudulent and put the military junta in civilian power.
“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi was fair, but it is seen as an obstacle to the improvement of human rights' respect and democracy in Myanmar, because all the powers have fallen into the hands of the Myanmar government,” said Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho.
Meanwhile, some 2,200 political prisoners remained, she said. “So we want to see that they are also freed.”
Suu Kyi, the former head of the National League for Democracy, is a Nobel Prize laureate and has a wide following of loyal supporters. Her party won overwhelming in an election in 1990, but the ruling junta did not recognize the results. The NLD refused to take part in this month's elections, calling the campaign rules unfair.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Suu Kyi's release was only possible due to strong international pressure and “the need of the Myanmar government for support from the international community.”
However, he said, if the government there wants a full democratic process, it must “let her have freedom in full political activity.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters Monday Suu Kyi's release would “begin a process of democracy in Myanmar that Cambodia should welcome and further encourage.”
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party said in a statement it hoped the release was “the first act of many towards a day when the basic rights of Burmese citizens are defended by the rule of law, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
“This is a challenge for many Asean nations, but the release of Aung San Suu Kyi is certainly a step in the right direction,” the party said. “We join Aung San Suu Kyi in her expectation for the release of all political prisoners still detained unfairly.”