YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday welcomed Myanmar's decision to release a "hero of mine," democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, following the expiration of her latest term of detention.
In a statement issued from Japan where he was attending a regional economic summit, Obama said he welcomed Suu Kyi's "long overdue release" and issued a new call for the military leadership in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to free its remaining political prisoners.
Obama said Suu Kyi's release doesn't change the fact that she and the political opposition she represents has been "systematically silenced" and denied an opportunity to take part in political processes that could change her country.
"While the Burmese regime has gone to extraordinary lengths to isolate and silence Aung San Suu Kyi, she has continued her brave fight for democracy, peace, and change in Burma," Obama said. "She is a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world."
"The United States welcomes her long overdue release," he said.
Myanmar released its archrival on Saturday after the expiration of her 7 1/2–year period of detention. The 65–year–old Nobel (News - Alert) Peace Prize laureate has become a powerful symbol of the struggle for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Suu Kyi's freedom also came a week after Myanmar's first election in 20 years, balloting that was swept by the military's proxy political party and condemned by Obama and other Western leaders as a sham to keep the junta in power.
During a visit to India last Sunday, Obama said Myanmar's election "will be anything but free and fair," and said that, for too long, "the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny."
Suu Kyi's pro–democracy party won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, but was barred from taking office. She had been under house arrest for most of her life since then, after the ruling generals ignored the poll results.