KUALA LUMPUR - Myanmar has bowed to pressures and agreed to release pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a top Philippine official said Tuesday.
Myanmar Prime Minister General Soe Win “accepted it [Suu Kyi’s release]” as he pledged to take concrete steps toward democracy in his country, the official told reporters covering the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit here.
The ASEAN has recently abandoned its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states and pressed Myanmar’s ruling junta to release Suu Kyi from house arrest and institute democratic reforms in the country ruled by a military junta for close to two decades.
At the same time, Myanmar was open to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's suggestion to bring the issue before the United Nations Security Council to give Yangon a chance to explain its side on the issue, the official who refused to be named said.
Myanmar's refusal to embrace reforms or free Suu Kyi dominated discussions within the 10-nation bloc, which had pressed Yangon to demonstrate actual progress on the ground.
The official said Arroyo and Soe Win had discussed about Myanmar’s situation "lengthily and seriously” at least twice at the sidelines of the 11th ASEAN Summit here.
ASEAN leaders on Monday agreed to send an envoy to Myanmar to look for signs that the military rulers are taking steps towards democracy.
Since Myanmar joined the bloc in 1997 -- with strong support from Malaysia -- the international community has criticized ASEAN for defending Myanmar despite its lack of progress toward democracy and improved human rights.
Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, and her deputy Tin Oo, have been detained since May 2003 when a pro-government mob attacked her and her followers as she toured northern Myanmar. Her house arrest was extended by six months in November.
Myanmar's current junta has been in power since 1988. It called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory, saying the country first needed a new constitution.
In 2003, the junta unveiled a seven-point road map toward democracy and convened a National Convention to draw guidelines for the new constitution, but no timetable has been set to complete the task.
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