India Should Pressure Burma on Aung San Suu Kyi

Washington

Freedom House calls upon the Indian government to break its silence over the sham trial of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to pressure Rangoon to unconditionally release the Nobel peace laureate immediately.

Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest related to a bizarre incident last month in which an uninvited American man swam to her lakeside home and stayed two days. Burma’s ruling generals are using the incident as a flimsy legal pretext to prevent the opposition leader from running in next year’s multi-party elections. Suu Kyi already has spent more than 13 years under house arrest and faces another five years if found guilty.

"Freedom House is deeply disappointed that the Indian government is turning a blind eye to Burma’s shameful behavior," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "As the world's largest democracy and a regional leader, India has an obligation to defend Suu Kyi and at least attempt to influence the actions of Burma’s ruling junta."

Yesterday, more than 100 members of India’s parliament appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to secure the release of Suu Kyi and to press Burma’s government to reinstate democratic governance. The members signed a petition initiated by the Indian Parliamentarians Forum for Democracy in Burma.

In recent years, India and Burma have increased bilateral trade and agreed on several major development projects, including Sittwe port and a Kaladan River project. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, trade between the countries for fiscal year 2007-08 stood at more than $900 million.

Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the country’s last elections in 1990 by a landslide, but was not allowed to take power by the military, which has run the country since 1962.  The 2010 elections show no hope of being either free or fair with Suu Kyi’s new trial and severe restrictions in place on both freedom of association and assembly.

Burma received a downward trend arrow in Freedom of the World 2009, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, for a widening crackdown on political activists including a sharp increase in the number of political prisoners. The country already ranks in the bottom tier of the world’s most repressive regimes, earning it a place in Freedom House’s annual Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2009 report.

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.

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