Outspoken Labour MP Maryann Street has vowed to initiate a motion in New Zealand’s Parliament calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burmese political prisoners, saying it was a responsibility of parliamentarians to “add our voices” to the international clamour.
She spoke during a vigil last night organised in support of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on “trial” by the military regime after being accused of breaking state law.
About 40 people – including local politicians, activists and students – braved the rain and cold to attend the vigil.
Street, who is also chairperson of the NZ Parliamentarians’ Caucus on Burma, said: “It is our responsibility to add our voices to the clamour of international voices heard for Burma to move towards democracy”.
Dr Suu Kyi has been charged for breaching the terms of her 13 years of house arrest after an American Mormon John W. Yettaw swam across a lake and entered her house this month.
The trial started on Monday and is continuing. She is being held in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison in Yangon while the charges and evidence are being heard.
Many commentators believe this trial reveals that Burma’s military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), plans to justify the extension of her detention, which would have expired by the end of this month.
She could face five years’ imprisonment if she is found guilty.
“We are gathering to show our support for Aung San Suu Kyi and demand international action,” said Naing Koko, director of the National Council of the Union of Burma’s New Zealand office.
“Suu Kyi has been detained for more than 13 years and she must be freed.”
“The trial is all about keeping any voices of dissent silent in the run up to rigged elections next year.
'Exposing the lies' “It exposes the lies the generals have been telling that elections next year will bring change. In fact, the election and constitution are all about keeping the generals in power.”
Joe Carolan, a representative of Socialist Aotearoa, gave a speech calling for New Zealand companies to stop all trade with Burma.
He also rejected the idea that international governments should play a key role in bringing change to Burma:
“Change is going to come to the region from the ordinary people, from the poor and from the student movement there, not from the likes of the British, the United States or the United Nations”. On Wednesday, Dr Suu Kyi’s trial was briefly opened up for reporters and diplomats but generally it has been closed for the public.
Su Kyi has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years.
There was a schedule for her to be freed by the end of this month after serving six years’ house arrest that started in May 2003.
To justify her security, the military placed her under house arrest after her travel to northern Burma was ambushed by pro-government mobs.
Demonstrations have been taking place this week in more than 20 cities across the globe.
Pictures: Top: The Auckland vigil (Violet Cho); middle: Aung San Suu Kyi at a Yangon rally when out of house arrest; and above: local Burmese leader Naing Koko.
Violet Cho is the 2009 Asian Journalism Fellow with AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.
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