Friday, May 22, 2009

US Senate Passes Resolution against Junta

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — The US Senate on Thursday condemned the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese military government and called for her immediate, unconditional release.

A unanimous resolution passed by the Senate also recognized that the current conditions in the country are not conducive for a credible national election in 2010.

It also urged the US secretary of state to reinvigorate her efforts with regional governments and multilateral organizations, including China, India and Japan along with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations Security Council, to secure the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all prisoners of conscience in Burma.

Authored by Sen Judd Gregg, the resolution was cosponsored by senators Dianne Feinstein, Richard Durbin, John McCain, Sam Brownback, Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Bob Bennett, Kit Bond and Mitch McConnell.

It was also cosponsored by the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively Sen John Kerry and Sen Richard Lugar.

“This resolution reflects the United States Senate’s unequivocal condemnation of the show trial currently being conducted by Burmese officials against Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi,” Sen McConnell said in a statement.

“It is bad enough that Suu Kyi has been imprisoned for 13 of the past 19 years. Now the Burmese regime, the State Peace and Development Council, has come up with the flimsiest of pretexts to try to detain her further. It appears the Burmese regime will do anything to consolidate its grip on power,” he said.

“One suspects that the regime wants Suu Kyi behind bars at least until elections under its sham constitution are held in 2010,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in a letter has urged US President Barack Obama to take further steps under the Tom Lantos Burma Jade Act to toughen US policy on the Burmese regime.

She also urged the administration to pursue a global arms embargo on the regime at the UN Security Council, along with an investigation of the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Burmese junta.

Ros-Lehtinen urged Obama to take into consideration the recommendations made by the All Burma Monk's Alliance (ABMA) and the 88 Generation Students, which sent a letter to Secretary Clinton on May 5, 2009, while they were in hiding from authorities. She said the monks represented the authentic voice of the Burmese people.

“The junta’s latest outrageous action of bringing trumped-up charges against Nobel Peace Prize laureate and designated Congressional Gold Medal recipient Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrates that the Burmese military leopard has not changed its spots,” she said in her letter to Obama.

The Obama administration is soon expected to complete a review of the US policy on Burma, even as the United States continued to express its concern over the current situation in the country especially with regard to the ongoing trial of the popular pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A State Department official, speaking to the press, clarified that the review does not mean a new policy would be “softer,” as is being apprehended in certain quarters and also by some law makers.

“Because we are saying that we are reviewing it does not necessarily mean that we are going to be softer. It is just trying different approaches of engagement,” the official said.

In her first visit to Asian countries after becoming secretary of state, Clinton had said that the Obama administration would review its Burma policy and that she believed that current economic sanctions against the military junta has not yielded the desired results.

This had given rise to speculation that the new administration might adopt a softer approach towards the junta. However, the recent statements coming from Clinton and the State Department in the aftermath of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi do not indicate that will be the case.

During congressional testimony on Wednesday Clinton said that the 2010 elections in Burma could be considered illegitimate and would have no meaning for the international community if the current regime continues on its present path.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly renewed the US call on the Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma’s more than 2,100 political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.

Clinton is very pro-active in trying to engage all the countries of the region to try to influence the junta to take concrete steps toward national reconciliation, Kelly said.

“We are trying every channel, every diplomatic channel, to try and get the Burmese authorities to release all of these political prisoners and allow a political process that will ensure a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Burma,” he said.

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