Friday, June 12, 2009

Free Suu Kyi Campaign Gains Momentum in the US

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — As the Burmese regime’s “illegitimate” trial of Aung San Suu Kyi continues, supporters in the US have launched a multi-pronged campaign to build international pressure to free the pro-democracy icon.

On Thursday, Freedom House, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, said India needs to “break its silence over the sham trial in Burma” and urged New Delhi to use its influence over the Burmese military junta to seek Suu Kyi’s release.

“Freedom House is deeply disappointed that the Indian government is turning a blind eye to Burma’s shameful behavior,” Jennifer Windsor, the executive director of Freedom House, said in a statement.

“As the world’s largest democracy and a regional leader, India has an obligation to defend Suu Kyi and at least attempt to influence the actions of Burma’s ruling junta,” she added.

Next week, former political prisoners and human rights activists are coming to New York to submit a global petition for the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The global signature campaign, “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now,” was launched last March and has been signed by more than 670,000 people from 220 countries and territories. The letter calls on the UN secretary general to make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma as the essential first step towards democracy in the country.

Meanwhile, New York-based Burma Point this week announced plans to launch a “fax campaign” to demand Suu Kyi’s release. Under this campaign, people from across the globe would be sending thousands of faxes to Burmese diplomatic missions all over the world and to offices of the Burmese military junta inside the country demanding that Suu Kyi and other political prisoners be freed.

In a video message released today, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, also called on Burma’s rulers to free the detained democracy leader and other political prisoner. “Aung San Suu Kyi has been a symbol of freedom for the Burmese people and a guiding light for the human rights struggle worldwide,” Roth said.

Two influential US senators, Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein, have also added their voices to the growing US campaign to push for the release of Suu Kyi, calling on their colleagues in the Senate to quickly approve their legislation, “The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act,” which renews sanctions against the Burmese junta.

The bill calls for an import ban on Burmese goods entering the US and visa restrictions on officials from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma’s ruling regime.

“Now is the time for Congress to send another strong message to the SPDC: the United States continues to stand squarely with the long-suffering people of Burma in their quest for democracy and reconciliation,” said McConnell.

Feinstein said that the junta “understands all too well that the vast majority of its citizens embrace Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s call for freedom and democracy and rejects the junta’s record of human rights abuses and oppression. That is why they are trying once again to silence Suu Kyi’s voice with the latest round of trumped up charges against her.”

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