Friday, 18 June 2010

The World Prepares to Mark Suu Kyi Birthday

Events to mark detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday will take place both inside and outside Burma on Saturday. While foreign diplomats in Bangkok read out messages of support for Suu Kyi's freedom to Burma's opposition in exile, her supporters in Rangoon have said they will plant tens of thousands of trees in honor of their leader.

“We will plant 20,000 trees in 386 townships for our leader's birthday,” said Phyu Phyu Thin, a female leader with Suu Kyi's disbanded National League For Democracy (NLD).
Other party members said they will mark their leader's birthday by making donations to Buddhist monks and providing financial support to the children of political prisoners.

On Thursday in Bangkok, a coalition of 10 Burmese opposition groups held a ceremony to mark Suu Kyi's birthday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT). The event included diplomats from Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic and Thailand.

Canadian Ambassador to Thailand Ron Hoffmann said that Canada will continue to support Suu Kyi and Burma's democratic struggle, adding that his country has imposed the toughest economic sanctions against the Burmese regime.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a leading member of the Thai parliament, expressed his hope that—although his country is essentially supporting the Burmese regime by importing natural gas— Thailand might be in a position to pressure the regime at some time in the future. He added that he wished to be the first person to shake hands with Suu Kyi if she is released and is able to visit Thailand.

The FCCT event also marked the end of an international campaign denouncing the Burmese general election that received more than 40,000 signatures from 35 countries in two weeks.

On Saturday, supporters of the US Campaign for Burma will hold a solidarity rally in Washington, as will members of Burma Campaign for UK, who say they are calling for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners in Burma.

“We will form a line of 18 people, wearing T-shirts spelling out the messages: 'Aung San Suu Kyi' and 'Now set her free.' We will hand out flyers with information about Suu Kyi and human rights in Burma,” said a statement from the London-based group.

This week, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned Suu Kyi's detention in a statement, saying, “[the] continuation of the deprivation of liberty of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi is arbitrary [and] in contravention of articles 9,10, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Suu Kyi has spent nearly 15 of the last 21 years in detention. She is currently serving an 18-month extension of house arrest for briefly sheltering an American citizen last year who swam uninvited to her lakeside home in Rangoon.

The NLD was officially dissolved on May 7 after rejecting the regime's election laws which would have required it to oust its leader, Suu Kyi, from the party.

The regime is widely expected to hold a general election before Suu Kyi's sentence expires in November.

News from Irrawaddy

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