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The Burmese government releases Aung San Suu Kyi

13 November 2010

12:50 PM

13 November 2010

12:50 PM

Celebration mixed with caution. That is the most natural response to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and it is the response being uttered by most of our politicians. Celebration, because one of
the most high-profile examples of political tyranny in our age has seemingly been righted. Caution, because, despite their posturing, Burma’s military rulers are still averse to anything like real democracy. As
William Hague has said, what about Burma’s 2,100 other political prisoners? And what hope that Suu Kyi’s release will mark a
real shift in how the country conducts its politics? If Burma is to one day enjoy the "new opportunities for pluralism" that Daniel wrote about on Thursday, then this is not a moment for the international community to soften
its attitude towards the current regime.

FRASER NELSON ADDS:
John McDonnell has tweeted that her release is a Mandela moment for our century – a very
dangerous and naive conclusion. Mandela was released by a crumbling regime on its last legs. The Burmese military junta has released Aung San Suu Kyi because it now feels strong enough to do so.
They recently won a rigged election, they have struck deals with her other opponents, they have economic deals with China. Releasing their no.1 celebrity prisoner, at the age of 65, will get the
West off their backs – there’s hundreds more in their cells who have no profile.


I’m of a generation that grew up when the Berlin Wall came down, and it seemed as if history was indeed pointing towards the triumph of democracy and liberal government. It’s hard to argue that
now. As Francis Fukuyama argued in The Spectator back in February, we have not seen the end of
history. It has a few more surprises to spring. Mainly the success of what Ian Bremmer calls state capitalism: a system where the state is the lead economic actor, and works for
politicial gain. 

No-one can fail to be delighted that one of the most iconic figures of the pro-democracy movement has been released: hers is one of the most inspirational stories of political courage. But this
should not be misinterpreted as a sign that things are getting better in Burma. The military junta have released Burma’s most famous woman, but still imprison a nation.

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