Thursday, May 14, 2009

Australia calls for release of Suu Kyi

By Sandra O'Malley

SMH - Australia has called for the immediate release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after Burmese authorities sent her to prison over an unauthorised visit by an American.

The 63-year-old, who has lately been in poor health, has been under house arrest for the past two decades.

She was sent to the notorious Insein prison on Thursday after being charged over an incident in which an American man swam across a lake to visit her house.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith expressed grave concern over the latest chapter in Ms Suu Kyi's incarceration.

"It is Australia's longstanding position - shared by governments of both political persuasions - that she should be released immediately and unconditionally and I repeat that today," he told parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent most of the past 19 years detained in virtual isolation in her crumbling compound since the Burmese military junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in the country's last elections in 1990.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop told parliament the military junta had ignored the will of the majority of Burmese people.

Ms Bishop travelled to Burma in 1995 and met Ms Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi said at the time that she was "a prisoner in her own country".

She said it seemed "the Burmese regime is determined to make that a reality".

The junta was "unparalleled" for its human rights abuses against Burmese people.

"The world must engage in greater levels of diplomacy and other actions to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi is freed and that freedom and democracy is returned to the people of Burma," Ms Bishop said.

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