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Burmese justice, or more precisely the lack of it, is on full display in Rangoon with the trial of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi on spurious charges of violating the terms of her house arrest.
Secretary General of Burma's National League for Democracy, or NLD, and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, she faces up to 5 more years in detention if convicted of allowing an uninvited intruder to spend the night in her home when he became too weak and ill to leave when so ordered.
The NLD party won Burma's last elections in 1990, but the results were ignored by the government. New elections are planned next year, in which Aung San Suu Kyi likely could not have a voice if she were still in custody. U.S. President Barack Obama joined an international chorus condemning her arrest and demanding her immediate release.
"Such an action would be an affirmative and significant step on Burma's part to begin to restore its standing in the eyes of the United States and the world community, and to move toward a better future for its people," President Obama said.
With a new administration, the U.S. is reviewing its policy toward Burma, which has been subject to U.S. trade and investment sanctions because of its repressive government and repeated violations of human rights.
Aung San Suu Kyi's lengthy detention and isolation and now her prosecution in what amounts to a government show trial cast serious doubt on the Burmese regime's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community.
The U.S. is not alone in its concern for the imprisoned Nobel laureate. Asian and European Union leaders meeting in Vietnam jointly called for her release and that of all other Burmese political prisoners. Some of Burma's neighbors have called for the Rangoon government to be suspended from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if she continues to be detained.
Burma's leaders have an important opportunity to show their commitment to genuine rule of law. They should release Aung San Suu Kyi immediately.