ASEAN States Urged to Sanction Burma over Suu Kyi Sentence

Washington

Freedom House urges member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and major trading partners—including India and China—to take immediate steps to impose targeted sanctions on Burma's military leaders.

"In a region that has seen impressive advances in democracy and freedom, in Indonesia especially, now is the time for ASEAN states to take a stand on as clear a case of miscarriage of justice as one ever sees," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director.  “Burma’s behavior could not stand in starker contradiction to ASEAN’s objectives of 'abiding respect for justice and the rule of law' and 'adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.'"

On Tuesday, the junta sentenced Suu Kyi to three years hard labor, but then commuted it to an 18-month extension of her house arrest. The Nobel peace laureate has already spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention. The trial accused Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her house arrest after American John Yettaw swam uninvited to her lakeside compound in May and remained there for two days. Yettaw was given a seven-year sentence.

The junta used the trial as a pretext to prevent Suu Kyi from running in next year’s general elections. Her National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in the last elections in 1990, but the junta refused to accept the result. Almost two decades later, more than 2,000 opponents of the junta remain in Burmese prisons and the country consistently ranks near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index.

Suu Kyi's sentence presents ASEAN's newly-created Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights with its first test. Member states reached a consensus last month on the body's terms of reference, which empower the commission to promote human rights, but fall short of giving it the strong mechanisms it needs to actually protect Southeast Asians from abuses.

"The Burma case demonstrates why it is imperative that ASEAN strengthen its new human rights commission if it intends to be a credible regional power," said Windsor. "Telling citizens that ASEAN's commission only has the power to promote human rights, rather than protect them, rings hollow in a place like Burma."

Burma ranks in the bottom tier of the world’s most repressive regimes, earning it a place in Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2009 report. Over the last year, Freedom House noted a sharp increase in the number of political prisoners held in Burma and a widening crackdown on those who might participate in forming political parties for the 2010 elections.

Burma is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

To learn more about Burma, read:

Worst of the Worst 2009: The World’s Most Repressive Societies
Freedom in the World 2009: Burma
Freedom of the Press 2008: Burma

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Burma since 1972.

Freedom matters.
Freedom House makes a difference.
www.freedomhouse.org

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter and our blog.