When the world last heard from Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights activist and feminist hero from Burma (Myanmar), she had been released from a collective 15-year house arrest and was beginning to rebuild the National League for Democracy, the political party she founded. She has since visited rural parts of her home country, making public appearances that toed a careful line so as not to be seen by the ruling junta as overtly political.
Suu Kyi has also expressed support for certain aspects of a new call to action by 22 human rights activists groups. In a letter to President Barack Obama, the letter urges the president to implement banking sanctions against the Burma’s dictatorial regime and calls for the United Nations to establish a “commission of inquiry” to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
The letter points out that the Obama administration began a policy two years ago of engagement with the military government of Burma, urging it to unconditionally release its political prisoners, establish dialogue with the National League for Democracy and the country’s ethnic minorities about forming a democratic government, and allow humanitarian aid to areas of the country affected by conflict. “Sadly, as of today, those conditions remain unfulfilled,” the letter reads.
The next step would be to develop targeted sanctions against the country’s current leaders under the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts (JADE) Act of 2008. As stated in the letter,
The National League for Democracy party, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, asserts that financial sanctions can be effective and targeted to only members of the military junta and their associates. They urged Secretary Clinton ‘to exercise the authority for additional banking sanctions against Burma’s leaders explicitly provided by Congress in Section 5 of the JADE Act.’ We fully support their call. If your administration remains committed to maintaining sanctions against the Burmese junta, it should be implemented.
Suu Kyi made a video address to U.S. Congress on June 22 in which she supported the U.N. commission of inquiry:
I support [U.N. Rapporteur Tomas Quintana's] call for such a commission, making it quite clear that a commission of inquiry is not tribunal. It is simply a commission of inquiry to find out what human rights violations have taken place and what we can do to ensure that such violations do not take place in the future. I would appreciate everything that is done to help Professor Quintana in his work.
With these statements, Suu Kyi continues to quietly demonstrate her power and influence as a human rights activist. Her name, her presence and her carefully chosen words are crucial in the continuous efforts to put pressure on Obama and the U.N. to support democracy in Burma. She is also urging the Burmese government to unconditionally release all of its political prisoners, and her plea is backed by a petition with more than 555,000 signatures (the aim is 600,000). Suu Kyi is offering the world more than one way to take action against the current regime in Burma; let’s join her.
To hear more about the human rights Suu Kyi desires for the Burmese people, see the video below that she prepared for the Feminist Majority Foundation when it honored her with its Global Women’s Rights Award.
Brighton, England mural of Aung San Suu Kyi by artist Mike Edwards; photo from Flickr user Globalism Pictures under Creative Commons 2.0.