Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Regime Ignores Own Laws to Hold Suu Kyi: Rights Groups

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s ruling regime is breaking its own laws and ignoring world opinion by continuing to detain opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, say members of her party and human rights groups.

On Friday, Hla Myo Myint, one of the lawyers representing Suu Kyi, traveled to the junta’s capital of Naypyidaw to receive a letter rejecting an appeal for her release, according to sources from her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Kyi Win, the main lawyer working on the case, said he was unhappy with the response from the Burmese regime, which he said was against the law and lacking in fairness.

Kyi Win submitted two appeals against Suu Kyi’s detention twice last year, arguing that under Burmese law, she could not be held without charges for more than five years.

Suu Kyi has spent about 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest. Her latest period of detention began in May 2003, after she and her supporters came under attack by junta-backed thugs while traveling upcountry.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Debbie Stothard, coordinator of Altsean, a regional human rights group monitoring abuse in Burma, said the regime’s refusal to release Suu Kyi sent the message that it is completely indifferent to the rule of law.

“It’s pretty clear that the [regime] doesn’t even respect its own laws, let alone international law,” said Stothard.

She also said that the Burmese military regime would not move forward with democratic reforms unless it comes under concerted pressure from the international community, including China.

Stothard said the international community needs to be much more united and give the regime some reason to fear the consequences of failing to respond to demands for the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

The United Nations should also put full diplomatic pressure on the rest of the international community to form a united front against the Burmese government, she added.

Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP), responded to the regime’s rejection of Suu Kyi’s appeal by saying that in Burma, the law serves only to further the interests of those in power.

“The law of the Burmese government is like rubber. They can bend it as they please, but we can’t use it against them because there is no rule of law in Burma. Suu Kyi’s detention and release are entirely in their hands,” he said.

The AAPP recently launched a petition for the release of all political prisoners in Burma and has so far collected more than 300,000 signatures, according to Bo Kyi.

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