News / Asia

Burma's Detained Democracy Leader Honored Globally for 65th Birthday

Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, turns 65 Saturday.  But, as with many past birthdays, she is spending it in detention. The military government, which ignored her party's 1990 election win, has kept her under house arrest for most of the last two decades and barred her from this year's controversial elections. She is being honored around the world for her determination to see democracy in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday is being marked globally with rallies and speeches from London to Manila to Washington D.C. But it is more a show of solidarity than a celebration.

The leader of Burma's National League for Democracy has spent 14 birthdays in some form of detention, with limited access to the outside world.

Last August, the government extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest for 18 months for failing to inform authorities that an uninvited American man had swam to her lakeside home.

Critics say it was an excuse to keep her locked up through controversial elections expected later this year.

Demand for dialogue

Activists and supporters spoke at the Bangkok press club Thursday calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release and for the government to agree to a dialogue with her and opposition groups.

Canada's Ambassador to Thailand, Ron Hoffman, says Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the few foreigners granted honorary Canadian citizenship for her work towards democracy in Burma.

"Today we reaffirm our commitment to carry this collective struggle forward. The government of Canada will do its part to ensure that Canadian actions match our words," Hoffman said. "To this end, Canada has imposed, and continues to, the toughest sanctions in the world on Burma's military regime."

The United States and the European Union, among others, also have tough economic sanctions against Burma for its failure to improve democracy and human rights.

Many political prisoners

There are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and rights groups document widespread military abuses.

George Kent, a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, read a statement on behalf of the U.S. government.

"Like Nelson Mandela 20 years ago when he walked out of prison, and a now prosperous South Africa successfully hosting the World Cup, Daw Suu could be the greatest possible partner for the regime to manage a successful transition to a better future without recriminations or revenge," he said.

The statement also says the United States stands in solidarity with the people of Burma to honor Aung San Suu Kyi's non-violent struggle for democracy and that it was tragic the military government saw her as an obstacle rather than the key to peace and prosperity.

Respected by many

Aung San Suu Kyi is believed to be one of the few figures in Burma respected by democracy advocates and various ethnic groups opposed to the government.

Zipporah Sein is general secretary of the Karen National Union, the political wing of one of the largest ethnic groups fighting against Burma's military.

"The people of Burma will remain in danger unless the national reconciliation and genuine dialogue begin," Sein said. "If the military regime continue refuse totally, we call on the international community to denounce the election and not to recognize the results of the election."

Upcoming election

The government says the parliamentary elections, which it has yet to schedule, are part of a road map to democracy.

But critics say they are designed to legitimize military rule.

A military-drafted constitution guarantees them a quarter of all seats in parliament even before elections.

Military leaders have taken off their uniforms to contest the remaining seats as civilians but are widely believed to remain loyal to the military.

In May the government dissolved Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD for refusing to expel her and other political prisoners from the party and participate in the elections.

The NLD won Burma's last elections in 1990 but the military ignored the results.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid