Burma's famous opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, spent her 64th birthday Friday at a high-security prison outside Rangoon. The pro-democracy leader has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest by the military junta and is currently awaiting the re-opening of her trial on charges of violating her house arrest. Yet for all the government's attempts to silence Aung San Suu Kyii, her resilience has become the symbol of the movement to bring democracy to Burma.
Human rights advocates around the world are commemorating Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th birthday. It is a time of little celebration for the pro-democracy leader, who spent the day in Burma's notorious Insein prison outside Rangoon.
Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with violating her house arrest by providing shelter to an American visitor who trespassed on her property in May. Human rights groups consider the trial a pretext for keeping her detained before the country's 2010 elections.
Rusty Dalizo is with the Free Burma Coalition Philippines, whose group staged a protest Friday in front of the Burmese embassy in Manila.
"We are calling on the brutal and bloody military dictatorship in Rangoon to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,000 political prisoners still detained in jails all across the country today," he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of a prominent figure in Burma's independence who was assassinated when she was just two years old. She was educated abroad and upon returning to care for her ailing mother in the late 1980s, became politically active in the National League for Democracy party.
She went on to win a landslide victory in elections held by the military regime in 1990. But the military junta, which has run the country since 1962, refused to hand over power and put her under house arrest, where she has spent 13 of the last 19 years.
In Washington Thursday, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission brought supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi together to renew pleas for her release.
Kenneth Wollack, who heads an organization that promotes democracy worldwide, recalls meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1995 and being struck by her sense of humor.
"During my visit, her only request is that I send her books on political humor. 'If you lose your sense of humor,' she said, 'you lose everything.' I could never have imagined at the time that 14 years later that she would still be held captive in her own country," he said.
Dr. Sein Win is the prime minister of the Burmese government in exile and a first cousin to Aung San Suu Kyi. He says the government is still afraid of the influence she has over the Burmese people.
"We are all very much affected by her courage, by her commitment, and also her readiness to stand up and talk for the people," he added.
The United States and the EU have imposed strict sanctions on the Burmese government, but with limited effect.
Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 14 of her birthdays in detention, but her supporters hope she will spend her 65th birthday in freedom.