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Archive for August 11th, 2009

U.N. council delays statement on Suu Kyi sentence

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U.N. council delays statement on Suu Kyi sentence

Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:57pm EDT

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Western nations pressed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a statement condemning a detention sentence passed on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, but other countries stalled for time.

A council meeting called by France to discuss the verdict ended without result and was adjourned until Wednesday, the president of the 15-nation body, British Ambassador John Sawers, said.

“There was considerable support for the principle of a statement, but a number of delegations wanted to refer it back to their capitals overnight for advice and instructions,” Sawers told reporters.

Diplomats said the countries concerned were China, Vietnam, Russia and Libya. China, which has a veto in the council, has consistently opposed tough action such as sanctions against its neighbor and trade partner Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, was sentenced to 18 months of house detention for violating an internal security law after an uninvited American visited her house where she was already under detention.

The verdict will keep her off the political stage through elections the military government has set for next year.

Tuesday’s council meeting considered a U.S.-drafted statement that “condemns the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and expresses grave concern about the political impact this action has on the situation in Myanmar.”

The 16-line draft, seen by Reuters, called for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and demanded that the junta “establish the conditions and create an atmosphere conducive to an inclusive and credible political and electoral process with full participation of all political actors.”

“We think there has to be a reaction by the Security Council,” French envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix told journalists. “The verdict is in clear violation and breach of the request made by the Security Council.”

Earlier, a statement issued by the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently visiting his native South Korea, said he “strongly deplores” Suu Kyi’s sentence and called for her release.

It said Ban, who visited Myanmar last month in a fruitless bid to win Suu Kyi’s release, urged the junta to “engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation.”

Fourteen Nobel peace laureates sent an open letter to the Council on Tuesday urging it to set up a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity they said the junta had committed in Myanmar.

(Editing by Anthony Boadle)

For an illustrated profile and timeline, click here

MYANMAR-SUUKYI/ – Illustrated profile and timeline about Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. RNGS. (SIN08)

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Verdict Reveals Burmese Regime Unbowed by Pressure

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Verdict Reveals Burmese Regime Unbowed by Pressure

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 11, 2009; 8:27 AM

BANGKOK, Aug. 11 — The decision by the generals who run Burma to extend Aung San Suu Kyi’s incarceration by 18 months has abruptly snuffed out the dim hope that the regime was becoming more sensitive to international pressure for democratic reform.

The verdict was widely expected: governments and international rights organizations came out with prepared condemnations only minutes after the verdict was announced.

But it has illustrated the West’s inability to change the direction of the Burmese government and the paucity of its arsenal when it comes to punishing repressive regimes.

Analysts say Burma’s ruling junta was determined to use the case to keep Suu Kyi — still the generals’ most formidable opponent despite having spent 14 of the last 19 years under house arrest — out of circulation ahead of elections scheduled for next year, even though the constitution written by the regime wrote guarantees the military 25 percent of the seats in the new parliament.

Earlier this year there was growing international support for the idea that isolating the junta with sanctions had failed in its aims of persuading the generals to improve democratic freedoms and human rights, and that some form of diplomatic and commercial reengagement might be more effective.


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Now the cause of those who believe that sanctions have proved ineffective, serving only to push Burma further into China’s economic and political orbit, has suffered a significant setback. Tuesday’s verdict appears likely to give new ammunition to the highly vocal international pro-sanctions lobby, making it harder for governments to explore a more nuanced approach.

But the international community also is likely to find it difficult to toughen its stance.

“If you look at economic sanctions, our leverage is minimal. There is nothing exciting in our back pocket,” said one European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a short closing statement at her trial, Suu Kyi said that such a verdict would condemn the authorities as much as her and her companions.

“The court will pronounce on the innocence or guilt of a few individuals. The verdict itself will constitute a judgment on the whole of the law, justice and constitutionalism in our country,” she said.

The beginning of the case was bizarre enough. On May 5, the Burmese police arrested John W. Yettaw, a 54-year-old American veteran of the Vietnam War, as he was using home-made flippers and an empty plastic water bottle to swim across the lake that backs onto the dilapidated villa where Suu Kyi has been held.

Yettaw, a native of Falcon, Mo., who relatives say suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his war service, was given a seven-year sentence, including four years hard labor. One of the years of his sentence was for the municipal crime of illegal swimming.

Yettaw told the court that he was returning from warning the Nobel Peace Prize winner that he had had a vision in which she would be killed by terrorists. He had apparently been carrying a Muslim chador so that she could escape in disguise.

Yettaw had tried to visit her before, last November, and succeeded in reaching the house, but she had refused to see him and informed the authorities once he had left.

The fact that he had been given another visa to visit the country spawned conspiracy theories suggesting that the junta had arranged the visit to create a case against her, although Suu Kyi’s more sober supporters came to the conclusion that Yettaw was probably too much of a loose cannon for even the Burmese authorities.

Even if the government was not behind the visit, it offered an opportunity to undermine Suu Kyi’s status as possibly the world’s most famous prisoner of conscience by trying her on criminal charges in courts that have long done the government’s bidding.

She was moved to Rangoon’s Insein prison pending trial. The international reaction was instant. President Obamacalled the charges spurious and said she should be released; European powers threatened to widen sanctions against the regime; even China, one of the regime’s few remaining allies, signed a regional statement calling on Burma to release political prisoners.

Burmese authorities responded by making sure the case had all the trimmings of due legal process: judges, defense attorneys and a system of appeal when the judges barred some of the defense witnesses.

They even allowed diplomats and the media to attend the trial intermittently.

But there was a surreal quality to the performance. The fact that the court was trying to ascertain her guilt when she was the victim of a break-in at her compound was only the icing on a cake that might have been baked by Franz Kafka.

When U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moonvisited Burma, he was denied permission to see Suu Kyi on the grounds that the government did not want to be seen to be interfering with the judicial process.

The defense argued that since the government originally took Suu Kyi into “protective custody” after a drunken government mob attacked her convoy, it was the guards surrounding the compound who should have been in the dock. The defense told the court that she had neither invited nor welcomed the intrusion, and they pointed out that the law under which she was being charged was part of a constitution that the generals themselves had repealed.

But in the end, for the courts in Rangoon, legalities mattered less than political expediency.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm

World Leaders Blast Burma for Suu Kyi Sentence

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World Leaders Blast Burma for Suu Kyi Sentence

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BRUSSELS —  European leaders sharply condemned the sentencing Tuesday of Burma’s most prominent pro-democracy leader to an additional 18 months of house arrest.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown decried what he called a “sham trial.” Sweden, which holds the presidency of the European Union, promised tighter sanctions against Burma’s leaders. Amnesty International’s secretary general called the verdict “shameful.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, head of Burma’s National League for Democracy, was found guilty Tuesday of violating the conditions of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home.

The head of the military-ruled country ordered her to serve an additional 18-month sentence under house arrest. Suu Kyi, a 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize, laureate has already been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

International criticism was swift in coming.

Brown said the verdict showed that Burma’s military leaders are “determined to act with total disregard” for international law and opinion.

He called the additional house arrest a “purely political sentence designed to prevent her from taking part in the regime’s planned elections next year.”

Sweden issued a statement on behalf of the EU saying the verdict continued two decades of violations of international law by Burma’s military leadership.

The statement said the EU will respond with “additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict (and) will further reinforce its restrictive measures” against Burma’s economy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was scathing, as well.

“This political trial had just one aim: to prevent Madame Aung San Suu Kyi from leading her fight in favor of a free and democratic Burma,” he said in a statement issued in Paris.

Burma, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962.

The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. Suu Kyi’s party won 392 of 495 parliament seats in 1990 elections, but the military ignored the results. Suu Kyi became a symbol of Burma’s suppressed democracy and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said Suu Kyi had faced a maximum sentence of five years.

“The Burma authorities will hope that a sentence that is shorter than the maximum will be seen by the international community as an act of leniency,” added Khan. “But it is not, and must not be seen as such.”

She said Suu Kyi should never have been arrested in the first place.,2933,538891,00.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm

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British PM ‘angry’ at Suu Kyi sentence

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August 11, 2009

Gordon Brown has condemned the sentencing of Burmese pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi. .. Follow us on twitter at

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 1:03 pm

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Europeans Demand Tighter Sanctions on Myanmar Regime

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Europeans Demand Tighter Sanctions on Myanmar Regime

Published: August 11, 2009
PARIS — Within moments of the sentencing of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to an effective 18 months house arrest on Tuesday, European governments demanded her immediate and unconditional release, threatening stricter sanctions against the military regime there to restrict arms supplies and curb its trade with the outside world.

The European Union demanded her freedom in a statement issued by Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation body. In a statement, the body said it was ready to impose “targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict” and to stiffen some earlier measures, including an arms export ban, visa restrictions and financial sanctions.

In many parts of the world, her trial has been followed closely and her cause has been embraced by a broad range of politicians and human rights advocates.

“Citizens across the globe are asking world leaders to hold this brutal regime to account,” said Ricken Patel, director of an online campaign network called “Aung San Suu Kyi ’s detention today on spurious charges removes any shred of legitimacy.”

Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a statement in London that, while the Myanmar authorities “will hope that a sentence that is shorter than the maximum will be seen by the international community as an act of leniency”, it “must not be seen as such.”

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi “should never have been arrested in the first place. The only issue here is her immediate and unconditional release,” Ms. Khan said.

It was not immediately clear how Myanmar’s Asian neighbors would react. Asian nations generally react cautiously to events in Myanmar, though they do sometimes offer critical comments. Analysts said that, in this instance, they may be willing to accept Myanmar’s protestations of leniency.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, however, called the sentencing “brutal and unjust” and said European sanctions should target profitable industries including timber and ruby mining. The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said in a statement the European Union should impose new sanctions aimed at the Myanmar leadership “and sparing the civilian population, which we should continue to protect and assist.”

In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was “saddened and angry” at her sentencing and said it was designed by the ruling military leaders of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to keep her out of elections next year.

In a statement, he said: “It is further proof that the military regime in Burma is determined to act with total disregard for accepted standards of the rule of law in defiance of international opinion.”

Calling on the United Nations Security Council to impose a global prohibition on arms sales, he added: “The facade of her prosecution is made more monstrous because its real objective is to sever her bond with the people for whom she is a beacon of hope and resistance.” France also called for an arms embargo.

The American response was likely to express similar outrage, and it seemed unlikely that the military’s decision to commute her sentence from an initial three years hard labor would soften western perceptions that the trial had been a political maneuver.

The Obama administration has been reviewing American policy toward Myanmar since February, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that the existing sanctions against its military-run government had been ineffective.

At a meeting of the Association of South East Asian nations in Thailand last month, Mrs. Clinton spoke in unusually detailed terms in discussing the country’s human rights record and its treatment of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We are deeply concerned by the reports of continuing human rights abuses within Burma,” she said at the time, “and particularly by actions that are attributed to the Burmese military, concerning the mistreatment and abuse of young girls.”

She also dismissed the charges against Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi as ”baseless and totally unacceptable” and said an improvement of ties with Washington depended on the Myanmar junta’s handling of human rights issues.

”Our position is that we are willing to have a more productive partnership with Burma if they take steps that are self-evident,” she said.

Seth Mydans contributed reporting from Bangkok, and Steven Erlanger from Paris.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

World focus on Burma (11-8-2009)

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 11, 2009 at 2:39 am