Statement by Minister Cowen on the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen T.D., today expressed his grave concern at recent reports that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may be on hunger strike, and at her continuing illegal detention in Burma.
The Minister recalled discussion of the issue of Burma at the ASEM Foreign Ministers meeting in July, in Indonesia, which called for her immediate release, and for the resumption of political dialogue. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has been in detention for more than three months, along with seventeen members of her opposition party, the National League for Democracy.
The Burmese authorities have denied reports of the hunger strike. The Minister stated that the only way for these reports to be verified is to grant immediate access to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by the UN, EU ambassadors, and representatives of internationally recognised organisations.
The Minister stressed that
“the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is essential to the process of national reconciliation in Burma. I would call on the Burmese authorities to act accordingly. I hope that ASEAN and other Asian Governments will use their full influence to this end”.
Note for Editors:
Burma (Myanmar) has been ruled by the military in some form for nearly four decades, and has been governed by a particularly oppressive military regime since 1988. The regime has perpetrated grave human rights abuses. Free elections were held in Burma in 1990 and 82% of votes went to the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. However, the military regime refused to recognise the result and has since used a combination of intimidation, harassment and quasi-legal devices to defer the implementation of democratic rule. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other representatives of the NLD have endured restrictions on their rights to free movement since 1990, and in 2000, were placed under house arrest.
There is no freedom of speech, or assembly, as the military regime attempts to eliminate systematically its opponents through a regime of intimidation, violence and serious human rights abuses. There is also sporadic conflict with a number of ethnic minorities, who account for about one-third of the total population. On 6 May 2002, after nineteen months of house arrest, ASSK was released, and negotiations about a return to constitutional government between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the NLD were promised, but did not materialise, despite on-going efforts by the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy Tan Sri Razali Ismail
Aung San Suu Kyi had been in detention since 30 May, following serious attacks on her and supporters, reportedly by members of the Union Solidarity and Democratic Association (USDA) – which supports the regime). She sustained minor injuries, and she was removed to an undisclosed place of detention. Officials from the International Red Cross were permitted to visit her on 29 July 2003, and reported her to be in good health and that the conditions in which she is being detained were acceptable. Reports from US sources this week, which remain unconfirmed, suggest that ASSK has begun a hunger strike.
ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations, and consists of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam
ASEM is the Asia Europe Meeting, an informal forum, which consists of EU member states, the European Commission, the members of ASEAN (less Burma, Cambodia and Laos) along with China, Japan and Korea.