Aung San Suu Kyis Birthday Sparks New Calls for Her Release


2005-06-17
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In Manila, activists rally and offer a birthday cake for Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AFP

BANGKOK—Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will spend her 60th birthday under house arrest in Rangoon, as overseas groups use the occasion to press for her release amid hopes of conciliatory moves from the ruling junta.

“Global protests will be staged this week, thousands of birthday cards have been sent and a pop star will release a song to draw attention to the plight of Burma’s pro-democracy leader,” a news story on Aung San Suu Kyi’s Web site said.

The Nobel Laureate, who was detained on May 30, 2003 after her motorcade was ambushed by government-backed mobs, will mark her 60th birthday and 2,523rd day under military detention on Sunday, the report said.

“Isolated from the outside world and her decimated political party, Aung San Suu Kyi is confined to a now dilapidated, two-storey family house sealed off around the clock by security forces in the Rangoon,” it said.

It said the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader “remains the great hope for those around the world seeking to end more than four decades of harsh military rule.”

Conciliatory remarks

Meanwhile, Burma’s military rulers made unusually conciliatory remarks ahead of Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday, saying the time had come to work together.

“It is high time that all the national political forces, including the NLD, regard the Tatmadaw (military) government’s recent overtures as blessings in disguise and work together in the interest of the nation,” said a commentary in the state-run Mirror newspaper.

One political analyst told Agence France-Presse that “the NLD should regard this as an official overture and respond positively.”

NLD spokesman U Lwin was quoted as saying that the overtures were “unusual,” considering the security crackdown in Rangoon since a triple bombing on May 7 at upscale shopping centers and a convention hall.

“We welcome the remarks and hope they will lead to something more significant,” U Lwin said.

Various activities are planned around the world to mark Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday in a bid to re-focus international attention on Burma.

U.S. rock band R.E.M. will broadcast a birthday song at its June 19 concert in Dublin and air it inside Burma through an Oslo-based dissident television station, the U.S. Campaign for Burma said.

U.S., Britain call for release

Well-wishers have been sending birthday messages of support via the Internet to the opposition leader, whose contact with the outside world is limited to a handful of people who take care of her everyday needs and state-run Burmese media, according to her Web site.

In a statement from Minnesota on Friday, U.S. President George Bush sent his own birthday message, saying Aung San Suu Kyi's "strength, courage, and personal sacrifice in standing up for the oppressed people of Burma have inspired those who stand for freedom."

"Only a return to democracy and reintegration with the international community can bring the freedom and prosperity that the people of Burma deserve. The United States looks forward to the time when Burma is democratic and free," the statement said.

It is high time that all the national political forces, including the NLD, regard the Tatmadaw (military) government’s recent overtures as blessings in disguise and work together in the interest of the nation.

Mirror

Britain on Thursday demanded that the junta release Aung San Suu Kyi, labeling her treatment by the ruling junta “indefensible.”

“On Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi will spend her 60th birthday under house arrest, cut off from family, friends, and political colleagues,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a statement.

“Her treatment by the Burmese authorities is indefensible, and I urge them to release her and the 1,300 other political prisoners immediately,” he said.

“The Burmese authorities should begin a genuine process of reform and political dialogue—involving all political parties and ethnic groups—to achieve national reconciliation so that the Burmese people can at last live in peace and freedom,” Straw added.

The United States also called upon the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD leaders U Tin Oo and Hkun Htun Oo and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

“This is a critical time for Burma. While the winds of reform and democracy are blowing throughout the world, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Burma continue to deteriorate,” he said. “Burma is the only country where a Nobel Laureate is under house arrest for simply acting as a democratic leader.”

Meanwhile, one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s sons was preparing to accept the freedom of the Scottish city of Edinburgh on Sunday on his mother’s behalf.

Britain was colonial ruler of Burma until the country won independence in 1948. The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, but the military regime refused to honor the results.

Original reporting by RFA Burmese service. Produced for the Web by Luisetta Mudie and Sarah Jackson-Han.

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