Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Charges against Suu Kyi ‘Baseless’: Clinton

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said that the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi are “baseless.” The visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister, Noer Hassan Wirajuda, joined her in demanding the Burmese junta immediately release the popular Burmese pro-democracy leader.

The meeting between Clinton and Wirajuda at the headquarters of the State Department was used as an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss the current situation in Burma, in particular the ongoing trial of Suu Kyi, on flimsy grounds that she violated the terms of her house arrest.

“Let me again reiterate that the charges against her [Suu Kyi] are baseless, and we call for her immediate release,” Clinton told State Department reporters after her meeting with her Indonesian counterpart.

“Indonesia, like other Asean countries, have also spoken out about her plight and urged her immediate release, and we greatly appreciate that,” she said.

Terming the decision of the military junta to bring Suu Kyi to trial, the Indonesian Foreign Minister said they were actually expecting a review of her case last month and her release as the term of her house arrest expired in May.

“So that’s why we issued a very strong statement on the current case of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and we remind Myanmar [Burma] of its obligation under the new Asean charter, and likewise through the previous calls made by our leaders to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Wirajuda said.

Traditionally Asean, a regional block of 10 countries, has been reluctant to weigh in on any issue relating to the “internal affairs” of one of its members. But Asean has issued a statement, expressing "grave concern" about recent developments relating to Suu Kyi given her fragile health.

Wirajuda also said that Burma's elections next year must be credible and include Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy.

However, Indonesia believes Burma's neighbors should engage with the junta even more closely and the US approach of harsh sanctions causes hardship among Burmese, he said.

Wirajuda said that sanctions "make the local people suffer even more." He called on the world to help alleviate the hardships for daily survival for Burmese. "This would encourage Myanmar to be more open," he said.

Meanwhile Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will visit Burma from June 8-11 and is scheduled to meet the country's leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, and second top vice Snr-Gen, Maung Aye, on Tuesday in Naypyidaw, the capital.

During his trip to Burma, Goh is expected to talk about Asean’s perspective on the Burmese political situation.

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