Activists Condemn Imprisonment of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Urge “Concrete” International Action (click to view PDF)

Global Arms Embargo, Action on Crimes against Humanity, Financial Freeze Urged

U.S. Campaign for Burma- Press Release
August 11, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at +1 (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) A leading U.S.-based activist group, the U.S. Campaign for Burma, today condemned the sentencing and continued detention of the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. She was found guilty by the military regime that rules the Southeast Asian country of Burma, along with her two women colleagues.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest for nearly 14 years of the past 20 years, was sentenced to three years in prison, and later commuted to 18 months of house arrest by the military regime’s kangaroo court system today after an apparently disturbed American man broke into her home where she has been held under house arrest continuously since 2003. Her home – a restricted area in Burma — is heavily guarded by the regime’s security forces.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest and trial have been met with widespread international condemnation, including from the United Nations Security Council, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, United States, European Union, and key world leaders such as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki- moon and U.S. President Barack Obama. Criticism from Burma’s Asian neighbors such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines contrasts previous tentativeness from the group.

Joining world leaders, 11 Nobel Peace Prize recipients including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and President Jose Ramos Horta of Timor-Leste (East Timor) called for a global arms embargo on Burma. Celebrities including Anjelica Huston, Ani Difranco, George Clooney, David Beckham, Bono, and many more also have joined the global campaign to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma.

At the same time, activists are urging the world community to move beyond verbal condemnation and adopt concrete policy measures aimed at the military regime, including a global arms embargo, an investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma, and the imposition of money laundering rules which permit the United States to freeze overseas bank accounts that may hold the military regime’s money.

“The United States, and United Kingdom should move to both propose a global arms embargo on Burma’s military regime as well as launch an investigation into the regime’s crimes against humanity, since they chair the Security Council in August and September,” said Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, who spent four years behind bars as a political prisoner in Burma.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s imprisonment makes it clear the Burmese regime has rejected meaningful political negotiations offered by Aung San Suu Kyi, her party and Burma’s ethnic nationalities. The regime also proved again that it does not care about verbal statements from the international community, and will continue to commit crimes against humanity, with impunity, as long as the international community fails to take concrete action,” added Aung Din. Burma’s military regime depends on China, Russia, North Korea, and others for much of its international weapons trade – weapons used to strengthen and modernize its 400,000 member military. The country has no external enemies, and uses weapons almost exclusively against its own people.

A growing push for an investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese military regime received a major push when a respected former United Nations official charged with examining human rights in Burma, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, penned an opinion piece in the New York Times calling on the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry that would investigate crimes against humanity in Burma. [See: “End Burma’s System of Impunity”, New York Times, May 27th, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/opinion/28ihtedpineiro.html]. Pinheiro stated: “The Security Council took similar steps with regard to Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The situation in Myanmar is equally as critical.”

The move came one week after Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic released a report, commissioned by a group of the world’s leading judges and jurists, which made a similar call for action. The report, entitled “Crimes in Burma”, found evidence which strongly suggested the regime had committed both crimes against humanity and war crimes in its attacks on ethnic minorities in the country. The report found that the UN had already received evidence alleging the military regime had destroyed over 3,000 ethnic minority villages and forcing at least one million civilians to flee their homes as refugees and internally displaced. The UN had also obtained information documenting the regime’s use of rape as a weapon of war as well as prolific forced labor, a modern-day form of slave labor. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have already stated that crimes against humanity and war crimes are taking place under military rule. Aung San Suu Kyi is not only an imprisoned human rights activist. She led her political party, the National League for Democracy, to win 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma’s last democratic election. The ruling military regime refused to permit the electoral winners to convene a new government.

“There is a great deal the world can do, and the United States in particular has tools at its disposal. It will be much more difficult for China to defend a veto of action at the UN Security Council now that it is clear that crimes against humanity have already been documented within the UN system,” added Aung Din. “And, the United States can do more to freeze the funds of the military regime – this is something the U.S. can do on its own.” 

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