Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the face of the pro-democracy movement in Burma, was released over the weekend by the military rulers of her country. Suu Kyi has been held at her lakeside home under house arrest for the last 7 ½ years for her pro-democracy activity and has become a global symbol for human rights and democracy. This courageous and graceful leader is a powerful example of what one person can do to stand up against repression. Through her brave example she has inspired countless others who are carrying forward her fight for democracy both in her homeland and elsewhere. The power of her example is evidenced by the thousands of Burmese who gathered outside her home to celebrate her release and by the millions more around the world who are hailing the end of her detention.
On Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to her jubilant followers clearly signaling her intention to continue as the leader of the pro-democracy forces in Burma. When she addressed the cheering throngs she said, "The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech". She also reminded them to pray for the thousands still imprisoned by the military junta. Making it clear that her commitment to democracy was undiminished by her years of captivity, Suu Kyi said, "You have to stand up for what is right."
There can be no doubt that Aung San Suu Kyi has stood up for what is right at great personal cost both to herself and her family. She has done this because she believed it would make a difference – it has. There are thousands of others like her who, at their own peril, fight human rights battles on the front lines in places like China and Sudan. These brave individuals deserve our recognition and steadfast support. “Whatever the motivation of the military leaders of Burma, we support their decision to release Aung San Suu Kyi. Furthermore we call upon the government to lift all restrictions on her activities and to allow her to travel freely both within Burma and abroad and of course to be able to freely return to her homeland. Perhaps, Aung San Suu Kyi may wish to travel to Oslo, Norway, to honor Liu Xiaobo her fellow Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy activist, who at this very moment continues to languish in prison in China,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.