AUNG SAN SUU KYI SAYS RELEASE OF PRISONERS IS TOP PRIORITY


2002-05-19
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WASHINGTON-Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told Radio Free Asia (RFA) she wants all political prisoners in Burma released and a longstanding gag order against her party lifted. Aung San Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy (NLD) "[has] already decided that the unconditional release of all political prisoners is the foremost problem that must be resolved." "Our goal is to have complete human rights in Burma," she told RFA's Burmese service in an interview early Monday. With U.N.-brokered reconciliation talks ongoing between the NLD and the junta, both sides have tacitly agreed to stop attacking each other in public, she said. "But that doesn't mean we will turn the other way when human rights violations occur. We will report them to the authorities concerned." Asked about popular distrust of the military government that has run Burma since 1988, she replied: "Confidence-building is a never-ending process. Even in a democratic government, one always has to work to foster confidence between the government and its people." The NLD plans to work for freedom of movement for all Burmese political parties, she said. Asked whether her party might now be permitted to publish a newspaper, she replied: "We are going to apply for a permit to publish, but we will have to wait and see whether we get it � In a democracy, there must be freedom of the press," she added. The Burmese media remain tightly censored and controlled, and the NLD is barred from issuing public statements. While Aung San Suu Kyi's release on May 6 from 19 months under house arrest received enormous attention from the international media, the domestic press failed to mention it. Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA last week her party is moving "step by step, with a lot of patience" to avoid prolonging a political stalemate that began more than a decade ago. She also called for Burma�s minority ethnic groups to be included in reconciliation talks that began in October 2000 between herself and the junta, brokered by special U.N. envoy Razali Ismail. The NLD won 1990 general elections by a landslide, but the junta, which took power after crushing a nationwide pro-democracy movement, simply ignored the results. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was first placed under house arrest from 1989-95. The junta ordered her under house arrest again in September 2000, after she tried to leave the Burmese capital, Rangoon, on party business. In its 2001 report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department described Burma's human rights record as "extremely poor" and noted that the government has continued to restrict freedom of expression "severely and systematically." Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia-giving them a voice as well as a means of connecting with the world and with one another. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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