Thursday, May 14, 2009

Govts, Exiles Call for Suu Kyi's Release


The British prime minister, the Australian government and its opposition party joined the chorus of calls from Burmese activist groups around the world on Thursday for the immediate release of Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I am deeply disturbed that Aung San Suu Kyi may be charged with breaching the terms of her detention,” said British premier Gordon Brown on Thursday. “The Burmese regime is clearly intent on finding any pretext, no matter how tenuous, to extend her unlawful detention.”

Earlier, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith had addressed Australia’s parliament. "It is Australia's longstanding position—shared by governments of both political persuasions—that she [Suu Kyi] should be released immediately and unconditionally and I repeat that today,” he said.

According to the Australian press, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop told parliament that the Burmese military junta had ignored the will of the majority of its people.

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

Meanwhile on Thursday, in Rangoon, Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD, released a press statement saying that Suu Kyi was “devout in her search of national reconciliation and was the one person who could effect political reform through dialogue and compromise.”

Suu Kyi was charged with breaching the conditions of her house arrest relating to an incident last week when an American man— John William Yettaw, 54, from Missouri—swam across Inya Lake and entered her house.

Suu Kyi, 63, has spent over 13 of the past 20 years in detention for leading the pro-democracy movement in Burma. Her latest term under house arrest is due to expire at the end of this month and opposition activists say the junta is looking for a legal pretext to keep her detained.

“We unequivocally condemn this attempt by the junta to cloak its continued detention of Suu Kyi in a veil of legitimacy,” Jared Genser, her US-based legal counsel, said on Thursday before the court hearing.

On March, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that they found Suu Kyi's current detention violates international and Burmese law.

The Washington-based National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma— which describes itself as the country's government-in-exile—also condemned the NLD leader’s arrest. The group's prime minister, Dr Sein Win, who is a cousin of Suu Kyi, said, "It is nothing more than a political ploy to hoodwink the international community so that they can keep Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under lock and key while the military maneuvers its way to election victory in 2010."

Meanwhile, a London-based advocacy group, Burma Campaign UK, called for an intense diplomatic effort to secure the release of Suu Kyi after she was taken into custody from her lakeside home on Thursday morning to a guest house inside the compound of Rangoon's notorious Insein Prison.

“The United Nations and Asean must dispatch envoys to Burma to demand the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma’s political prisoners,” said Zoya Phan, the international coordinator at Burma Campaign UK, adding that she also called on the British government, the EU and the US to use their influence to ensure the UN sends an envoy to Burma.

“Burma’s generals will use any excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi detained. If strong action isn’t taken, Aung San Suu Kyi could face the rest of her life in jail,” she said in a statement on Thursday.

Suu Kyi was recently reportedly to be suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration, and had difficulty eating. Her health reportedly improved this week after a visit from a doctor who administered an intravenous drip. However, the NLD has called for her to receive regular medical checkups.

The US State Department and the EU also voiced their concerns over the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

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