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June 21, 2011

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Asks for US Support for Rights Inquiry

by Kate Pound Dawson

The leader of Burma’s opposition movement has urged the U.S. Congress to do what it can to make sure that her government adheres to a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi told members of Congress a resolution that the U.N. Human Rights Council passed in March is a clear guide for what needs to be done to bring democracy to Burma.

Among other things, the resolution calls on Burma’s government to free political prisoners, grant civil liberties such as the freedom of expression, and allow regular visits by the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Burma.

VOA's Ira Mellman interviews Representative Manzullo, Chairman of the subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs.

“This resolution covers all the needs of Burma today, all the political needs, let me say, of Burma today. The requests, the urgings, the demands of this resolution are very much in line with what we in Burma think is needed to start Burma along a genuine process of democratization," she said.

Her videotaped comments were played Wednesday to members of the U.S. House subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs. They held a hearing on last November’s elections, the first in Burma in 20 years.

The leader of the National League for Democracy was cautious in her criticism of Burma’s new government. But she called for an independent judiciary to ensure the rule of law, and she said that if the government is sincere in wanting to bring democracy to the country, it should free political prisoners.

She closed her message by thanking Congress for its support for democratic reform in Burma. "With the help and support of true friends, I'm sure we will be able to tread the path of democracy, not easily and perhaps not as quickly as we would like, but surely and steadily," she said.

Watch the Nobel Laureate's videotaped remarks to the U.S. Congressional hearing:

Burma’s opposition, human rights activists and many governments, such as the United States, say the elections merely solidified military rule, because military members and a party backed by the military dominate the parliament.

The Burmese government is considered one of the most repressive in the world. Human rights activists and opposition members say Burma holds more than 2,000 political prisoners, and uses forced labor, long prison sentences and military attacks against minority groups to suppress opposition.

The National League for Democracy won the last free elections held in 1990, but the military never let the party take power.

The NLD did not participate in last year’s election because it refused to purge Aung San Suu Kyi and other imprisoned members from its rolls, which was required under new election laws.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent most of the past 20 years under some form of detention, was released shortly after the November elections.