Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Suu Kyi Continues Legal Battle

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s detained democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, met with her lawyer yesterday to discuss a legal challenge to the ruling junta’s decision to extend her house arrest earlier this year.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy on Monday that Suu Kyi’s meeting with her lawyer—the third since early August—concerned a lawsuit that she is mounting against her continuing detention, which was extended in May. She has been under house arrest since May 2003.

Nyan Win said that time constraints made it impossible for Suu Kyi and her lawyer to finish their business.

“Her discussions with her lawyer couldn’t conclude because the meeting was limited to just 30 minutes,” he said, adding that it was not clear when the authorities would allow Suu Kyi and her lawyer to meet again to discuss her case.

Political observers in Rangoon noted that this was the first time that Suu Kyi had attempted to use the courts to challenge the junta’s right to keep her under house arrest. Some also said that she was in touch with members of her party and the authorities to discuss the case.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic source suggested that Suu Kyi could be released before the end of this year. However, other sources said that Suu Kyi would also demand the release of all political prisoners if the junta decides to free her.

Suu Kyi’s meeting with her lawyer came amid rumors that she had begun a hunger strike.

Her lawyer, Kyi Win, said that Suu Kyi made no mention of a hunger strike, and in response to questions about her condition, quoted her as saying: “I am well, but I have lost some weight. I am a little tired and I need to rest.”

This was not the first time that Suu Kyi was rumored to be on a hunger strike. There were reports in September 2003 that she was refusing food. Those rumors proved to be inaccurate.

Observers suggested that the current rumors were also unlikely to be true, since the junta wouldn’t allow her to meet with her lawyer if she were staging a hunger strike.

Suu Kyi’s colleague, veteran journalist Ohn Kyaing, said that she takes meditation and other Buddhist practices seriously, and may be losing weight because she is abstaining from eating dinner for religious reasons during the three-month Buddhist Lent.

Thakin Chun Tun, a veteran politician in Rangoon, said Suu Kyi needed to be healthy so she could engage in a genuine dialogue with the regime to break the ongoing crises in the country.

“Burma’s crises can only be resolved through a genuine dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr-Gen Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta,” he said. “I hope she will take care of her health.”

The veteran politician said that while hunger strikes were an effective non-violent tactic during the country’s colonial period, they are less likely to succeed today.

“The current political environment is totally different from the colonial period,” he said.
“Burma is now ruled by the military—human life has less value now than under British rule.”

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