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7/27/03 - BURMA'S STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY - 2003-07-28

Burma's military rulers are under increasing international pressure to release Nobel Peace prize winner and democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She was arrested May 30th after a violent premeditated attack on her motorcade by pro-regime hoodlums. A number of people were killed and many others were injured.

Except for a brief visit by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail, Aung San Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado. Many of the other National League for Democracy activists are in prison, and the junta has closed N-L-D offices. By locking her and other democracy leaders away, the military junta hopes that other countries will come to accept its brutal repression of the Burmese people. As in so many things, the junta is wrong.

In an unprecedented step, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, called on the Burmese regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi. The European Union has tightened its economic sanctions and arms embargo on the military regime. In the United States, the Congress has passed the "Burma Freedom and Democracy Act" to ban Burmese imports. When it takes effect, the new law will strengthen sanctions imposed earlier by the U.S. To lift the import ban, Burma will be required to make "measurable and substantial progress toward implementing a democratic government." This includes "releasing all political prisoners, allowing freedom of speech and the press, allowing freedom of association, and permitting the peaceful exercise of religion."

President George W. Bush said, "this legislation sends a clear message to the Burmese regime that their continued detention of. . .Aung San Suu Kyi and their assaults on freedom cannot stand."

Aung San Suu Kyi is being kept in isolation. But she is not alone. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell explains why:

"We join in solidarity with courageous men and women all over the world who strive to advance human rights and democratic values within their own countries and throughout the international community."

Like people everywhere, the Burmese people deserve freedom, including the right to choose their own government.