Mar 26, 2009

UN rules detention of Aung San Suu Kyi illegal

The United Nations has ruled the continued detention of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi violates the country's own laws as well as those of the international community, a legal document says.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest, with the ruling junta yearly extending her detention despite international outcries.

"The latest renewal (2008) of the order to place Ms. Suu Kyi under house arrest not solely violates international law but also national domestic laws of Myanmar," said a legal opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that has been sent to the Myanmar government.

Although the ruling is unlikely to spring Suu Kyi from detention, it is uncommon for the world body to accuse a member country of violating its own laws, and while the junta has always marched to its own tune it has also resented being regarded as an international pariah.

The working group, an arm of the UN Human Rights Council, said Suu Kyi was being held under Myanmar's 1975 State Protection Law, which only allows renewable arrest orders for a maximum of five years. This five-year period ended at the end of May 2008.

The opinion also questioned whether Suu Kyi represented a threat to the "security of the State or public peace and tranquility," the provision of the 1975 law authorities have pointed to as the reason for her continued detention.

Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney retained by Suu Kyi's family who provided the document to The Associated Press, said while the United Nations group earlier found her detention arbitrary and in violation of international law, it was the first time it cited the junta as failing to abide by its own law.

He said the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has not responded to the UN's legal arguments and has not commented on why Suu Kyi is still being detained.

Suu Kyi, who rose to prominence during a pro-democracy uprising in 1988, was placed under arrest before her party swept the 1990 general elections, which the junta did not recognize. Over the years, the government released her several times only to have her virtually isolated again in her compound in Yangon.

The United Nations has for years attempted without success to bring about political reform and a dialogue between Suu Kyi and the military.

"I am under no illusion that the junta will be listening to the United Nations," Genser said in a telephone interview. "There is no quick and easy answer to the problem of Burma, so we have to take it one step forward at a time."

In Myanmar, the spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, Nyan Win, said over the weekend that her lawyer had sent a letter to Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein on March 13 asking for a hearing to appeal for her release when the one-year detention period expires in May.

The lawyer, Kyi Win, sent the appeal letter last October but has had no response from authorities, the spokesman said.

"The reason for her detention is false because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who advocates a nonviolence policy, has not caused any threat to public order," he said.

Nyan Win said every time Suu Kyi's detention is extended, authorities read out the order "but no explanation or reason was ever given for the extension or detention."

Asked if Suu Kyi's detention might be lifted in May, Nyan Win said, "It is very difficult to make any predictions as the government does not have a transparent policy."

Activist groups, under a Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now Campaign, are attempting to collect 888,888 signatures for a petition calling for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 other political prisoners.

The petition is to be sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The number "8'' is regarded as highly auspicious by many Burmese.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. Its leaders have scheduled elections next year that they say will lead to democracy. Critics say the balloting, held under a junta-orchestrated constitution, will merely perpetuate military control.

Related Link:

Coalition Group will not Contest 2010 election

Burmese political coalition group the Forum for Democracy in Burma has stated that it opposes the planned 2010 elections and will educate Burmese people about the problems with the election.

The statement was made at the end of a five-day seminar, which took place from 18 to 22 March, held at an unspecified place along the Thai-Burma border.

The FDB is a coalition of exiled organisations and activists. The seminar was attended by 32 coalition group members and five observers.

Dr Naing Aung, leader of the FDB, said the coalition had chosen to stand strong against the ruling State Peace and Development Council’s plan to hold elections in 2010, and vowed that the group would cooperate with the public for their campaign.

“We will be educating our people more about the election,” he said.

“The aim of the election is to bring the 2008 constitution to life which would lead us to remain as slaves of the military the same as 20 years ago,” said Naing Aung.

The 1990 elections were won by the opposition National League for Democracy in a landslide victory but the military government ignored the results and has continued to rule.

“We will be looking for various methods to fight for our rights,” he added.

“It is unlikely that we would be on safe ground when calling for our rights since Burma is ruled by an oppressive government.”

Related Link:

Mar 13, 2009

Activists launch Global Campaign to Release All Political Prisoners in Burma; RP Envoy to the ASEAN asked to engage Burma rulers

Responding to the global campaign calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to mark Burma's Human Rights Day, activists from Free Burma Coalition-Philippines today held a rally in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Pasay city.

The group unfurled a “huge tarpaulin” containing faces of thousands of Filipino supporters from various parts of the country demanding the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

FBC-Philippines with the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) jointly organized a project called “8.888 Faces” photo petition which will be part of the global petition of 888,888 signatures for submission to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“The plight of Burma’s political prisoners merits the attention of the world especially those in power. This campaign symbolizes our support to the peoples of Burma for their unrelenting struggle for genuine democracy and human rights, “ Egoy Bans, spokesperson of FBC-Phils said.

FBC-Philippines as a sign of “pabaon” (send off message) to former Senator Orly S. Mercado, the newly appointed Permanent Representative to the ASEAN, delivered a letter to the DFA containing the group's petition to the Philippine government to continuously engage ASEAN to effect democratic reforms in Burma and exert more pressures to Rangoon generals for the release of political prisoners including NLD leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The group pointed out that the release of all of Burma’s political prisoners is a crucial step in creating an atmosphere conducive to the process of genuine national reconciliation in Burma and ASEAN in this regard has an important role to play.

“We urge former senator Mercado to put among his priorities the issue of Burma when he assumed office. Mercado's slogan of “Kapwa Ko Mahal Ko” must now be translated to his future work in the ASEAN. We would like to hear envoy Mercado say that ASEAN must do something about Burma situation,” Bans explained.

Thailand based groups like the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP), Burma Partnership, and Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) are simultaneously launching today the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! campaign with the support of various advocacy groups in the region including the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines.

Schedules of solidarity actions and other activities in the region and other parts of the world as part of this global campaign to free all political prisoners in Burma:

1.) THAILAND: Press Conference at Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Bangkok (Friday Mar 13 @ 10 am) 2.) JAPAN: March 13 (Tokyo) 2pm: Demonstration in Gotanda organized by the Joint Action Committee of Burmese Community in Japan (JAC) 3.) INDIA: Signature Collection Campaign for 888,888
4.) AUSTRALIA: Burma Campaign Australia- Will be launched in Sydney with NSW parliamentarians and to get support from the unions to assist with collecting signatures.5.) KOREA: Signature collection for 888,888

Mar 9, 2009

PUP Campus Harassment: “Student activists” tear down FBC-Phils. exhibit on Burma

MANILA, MARCH 6 -- At 1:30pm today inside the campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila, a group of young students claiming to be “genuine activists” forced the members and volunteers of the Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBC-Phils) to fold down a photo exhibit on political prisoners in Burma, confiscated their campaign materials, and pushed them out of the campus, threatening physical attack if they do not leave.

The activity is hosted by a class of management students who had applied for, and was granted, a permit to hold the activity by the school administration. The exhibit was about the 8888-faces photo petition campaign calling for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma anchored by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and FBC-Philippines.

Members of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and FBC-Phils volunteers from the school have just finished setting up the exhibit when the incident happened. A group of students (about 20 of them) claiming to be “genuine activists” from a group called ANAKBAYAN ganged up on them, tore copies of the 8888-faces leaflet in front of the volunteers and commanded them to fold up the exhibit. “You are not allowed to set up the exhibit here, counter-revolutionaries -- with or without permit from the school administration. You are fake activists.”

Teody Navea, BMP secretary-general and part of the campaign team, tried to negotiate with the students, stressing what the campaign was about and that it is part of an international solidarity effort in support of the people of Burma. The “activists” led by a certain “Jojo Kulot” then started a countdown, further threatening to attack the FBC volunteers if they do not fold up the exhibit.

To avert any further violent confrontation, the FBC team volunteered to fold up the exhibit. But not satisfied, the “activists” from ANAKBAYAN even grabbed the tarpaulin exhibits and the BMP banner and all other materials. Navea tried to calm down everyone and appealed to the activists to return the materials as they are packing up. The “activists” started pushing and shoving FBC-Phils volunteers, slapping one in the head, as they violently escorted them outside the school gate and on to the thoroughfares.

As these things happen, other members of the “activist” group explain to all bystanders and onlookers that “these things will happen to you if you organize activities like these and if you join these and other organizations.”

We condemn, in strongest terms, this barbaric act of “gangster activism.” The issue of Burma’s political prisoners is a legitimate international issue and to prevent any group from holding this kind of campaign in any venue is not just a show of “sheer ignorance” to the issue but also an act only the “military dictators” of Burma can appreciate.

FBC-Phils is a coalition of individuals, trade union workers, NGOs, peoples’ organizations, youth and students, church groups, human rights and women organizations. This campaign of 8888-faces is just one of the many expressions the coalition can contribute in the spirit of international solidarity. It’s ironic and disgustful that this legitimate democratic campaign was attacked in the name of the so-called “revolutionary ideals?”. Where in this world you can see one “activist group” attack the very basic right to freedom of expression?

As activists, we SHOULD hate dictatorship whatever its name, we must abhor undemocracy; we ousted Marcos because of military dictatorship and now Burma is suffering the same kind of rule. Our message to these “activists” is simple: LET US NOT BECOME THE EVIL THAT WE DEPLORE!

Mar 2, 2009

Activists demand to put Burma on ASEAN Summit agenda; urge regional bloc to start “human rights monitoring”

PHILIPPINES --- With drums and bugles, about 90 activists under the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines today held a rally in front of the Thai Royal Embassy in Makati City* in time for the 14th Asean Summit.

Organizations present during the rally were: Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), KPML, Bagong Kamalayan, ZOTO, and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).

Activists urged ASEAN member states to put on the summit’s agenda the human rights issue in Burma saying that the summit should serve as a “hot seat” for the Myanmar delegate.

“The military regime of Burma has a lot to answer. Its human rights record is not showing any degree of significant improvement and the ASEAN Summit ministers and delegates should not take a blind eye into this issue,“ Rasti Delizo FBC-Phils Convenor said during the rally.


The group said ASEAN should come up with mechanism to “monitor human rights record” of Burma as the country's ruling regime remain secretive and intransigent to the international clamor for political reforms in the said territory.

Delizo stressed,“The issue of continued human rights violations in Burma is as important as the issue of global financial meltdown. In the face of this financial crisis, you have here one member in the ASEAN that treats Burma’s coffers as its personal purse. The peoples of Burma are suffering politically and economically because their government doesn’t care even if
millions will die in extreme hunger.”

ASEAN slogan brags about achieving a caring and sharing ASEAN community and one of the ASEAN Charter’s key pledges is to set up a regional human rights body.

"If this is true,”Delizo continued, “we challenge the ASEAN to begin monitoring the human rights situation in Burma; schedule a visit to Burma’s labour camps, detention centers, and try to see and feel the atmosphere of dictatorship there. Right now, ASEAN should go beyond its usual rhetoric and act concretely.”


From the Thai Royal Embassy, the group proceeded to the Burma Embassy.With a replica of a “prison cell” with “prisoners” tied in shackles, the group dramatized the plight of political prisoners in Burma. Unimpressed over the release of prisoners in Burma last week, FBC-Phils
dubbed the move as an “old trick” by the military regime to deodorize the awful smell of its dismal human rights record.”

The group said that all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi must be released unconditionally. “Torture, rape and murder are normal occurrences inside Burmese prisons.
The junta cannot hide the fact that political prisoners suffer torture day and night and their families are even prohibited from visiting them. The entire country is like a huge garrison—there is no rule of law,”FBC-Phils explained.

Recently, prominent leaders of the popular Saffron revolution including their lawyers were sentenced by the military court to serve 65 years in prison.

“Burma is a dangerous place not just for activists but also for lawyers. Protection and promotion of human rights which is a very basic duty of the state is not happening. It is in this case that the international community has the obligation to act,” Delizo concluded.