Friday, 20 June 2003

Emergency motion as Suu Kyi arrested again
The democratically elected leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been arrested again by the 'junta', heralding a sinister new crisis in the country.

UNISONScotland has already called for Suu Kyi to be given honorary UNISON membership to raise the profile of human rights abuses in Burma, and UNISON's Edinburgh Branch is planning an emergency motion to National Conference. UNISON already has a campaign backing sanctions against Burma.

After Suu Kyi's arrest, National League for Democracy (NLD) offices have been closed and activists rounded up and at least four died in clashes with pro-junta crowds. 50 ordinary Burmese who had turned up to hear her talk in Northern Kachin State were injured. Suu Kyi was arrested despite local abbots flanking her in support and protection.

Sources have confirmed reports that the NLD headquarters in Rangoon has been sealed off by authorities. Top NLD party members in Rangoon have been placed under house arrest and their phone lines cut, making it almost impossible to obtain information about the situation.

This is the third time the Nobel Peace Laureate has been detained. Supporters are hoping her detention is temporary, unlike her last period of house arrest which lasted 19 months.

Since her release in May 2002, Suu Kyi has been allowed to travel outside Rangoon to meet supporters and reopen NLD officers which were shut down by the junta. But the so-called "secret dialogue" between her and her former captors has stalled.

Since the appearance of pro-government troublemakers, it has been a rough ride for Suu Kyi and her party members. Recently junta supporters reportedly threw bricks at her vehicle.

In late May, the NLD marked the 13th anniversary of its landslide 1990 election victory, which was never recognized by the military government.

"The NLD must stand up firmly to achieve the result of the elections of 1990. To ignore the result of the 1990 elections is to have total disrespect for the people and is also an insult to the people," said Suu Kyi in the strongest statement she had made since her release from house arrest.

Surprisingly, despite the physical obstacles and ill-will, Suu Kyi's visits have been successful. Thousands of people have turned up to listen to her speeches.

Burma is notorious for forced labour, child labour, trafficking in prostitution and as the world's largest producer of illegal Opium. According to UN estimates there are 50,000 child soldiers in Burma, more than any other country.

An Amnesty International report on Burma's 2002 human rights record said, "Extra-judicial executions continued to be reported in most of the seven ethnic minority states." About 1,300 political prisoners remain in jail.

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