House arrest and being hidden from the public gaze have not diminished Aung San Suu Kyi's standing. The wild cheering that has marked the pro-democracy leader's every step since her release by Myanmar's ruling junta on Saturday proved that within the country as much as outside it she remains a symbol of hope and determination for change. Expectations have been lifted by her being given freedom, but no-one should be fooled into thinking that the military regime has suddenly set aside its despotic ways. The challenges that the Nobel Peace Prize winner and her supporters have faced for decades loom as large and have to be dealt with as delicately. Myanmar's generals would have us believe otherwise. They billed elections earlier this month as a new beginning for the country. Suu Kyi's release from seven years of house detention, a demand of democratic governments, was put forward as absolute proof of resolve. Neither makes a difference for the nation and its people. The polls were bogus, held under an especially-drafted constitution that guaranteed the military a commanding position in government. A party the junta created to contest the vote unsurprisingly won; elections were barred in many districts due to claimed security threats; more than 2,200 political prisoners, Suu Kyi among them, were not allowed to participate; unreasonably high registration fees kept out candidates, and those able to stand were denied access to the state-run media. Post-election, the only change is that the army's old guard has been replaced by a younger generation of officers. Dictator Senior General Than Shwe remains at the helm. It is clear that the generals are as determined as ever to keep their grip on power. Suu Kyi has spent more than 15 of the past 21 years in detention. She knows that her freedom can be taken away at a whim - it has already happened twice before. Conviction and belief can guide her, but will not change the nation's circumstances. Her strengths are her political experience, high moral stature and widespread support. Those have been firmly on show since her release. The crowds of well-wishers and supporters have been as adoring as ever. She has spoken of her respect for human rights and the rule of law and a determination to fight for them for the people of Myanmar. Repeatedly, she has told of the need for national reconciliation. There is no better way forward. First, she has to bring together her own political party, fragmented by her decision not to allow its participation in the election. She has to broker a meaningful dialogue with the junta. The country's many ethnic groups, largely frozen out of politics, have to be brought on board. It is in everyone's interests that this happens. Peace and stability will bring greater foreign investment and the beginning of the end to rampant poverty and disease. Neighbouring countries will have more stable borders - Thailand has long known of the consequences, and China found out last year when refugees fleeing fighting spilled into Yunnan province. A sham democracy will bring none of these. Like it or not, the junta cannot ignore Suu Kyi. It can lock her away, but it cannot kill off what she represents to Myanmar's people: freedom and an escape from poverty. The generals have to keep her free, release all political prisoners and make them part of the process to move the country forward. They will remain ostracised in most of the world and their country will be for the most part economically isolated until they do. Through genuine reconciliation, a way ahead can be found.