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"Continued repression in Burma is a stain on the world's conscience," says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 statement:

Yet another solitary birthday for Aung San Suu Kyi;
Yet another stain on world conscience

Aung San Suu Kyi is today celebrating her 63rd birthday alone, without a phone call, visit, or letter.

It will be her 4,618th day under house arrest.

Her crimes: being democratically elected by the Burmese people, and wanting for her people to be free from fear and free from want.

One year ago, on the same sad occasion, I had asked why and how have we, the world community, failed so miserably to bring an end to the dictatorship and restore human rights protection in Burma.

I thought then that we could not really witness further indifference, complicity, or lethargy, all of which had allowed the regime to continue its oppression of the people of Burma and the unrelenting detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. I was wrong.

Then came these last 12 months, when our powerlessness, coupled with the complicity of some - too many - resulted in countless sufferings and countless deaths.

In September 2007, the Burmese military authorities, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), violently cracked down on popular unrest, killing possibly hundreds of protesters, including Buddhist monks, arrested thousands, imprisoned democracy activists, journalists, bloggers and artists, and further tightened the flow of information to and from the country.

Repression continued throughout the following months, in spite of various international attempts to promote democracy and "dialogue".

In May 2008, as if the people had not been battered enough by repression and poverty, a devastating cyclone hit the country, resulting in the estimated death of at least 100,000 people. Many more have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Yet Myanmar's military government provided little assistance to the estimated 2.4 million survivors of the cyclone. It rejected international assistance for several weeks, blocked access to the Ayeyarwady delta at the time when survivors most needed emergency relief, and imposed an information black-out.

For the last two months, the authorities have sought to maintain the cloak of secrecy and fear over the country at all cost. How many people will have died or are yet to die as a result of the Burmese authorities' criminal obstruction of aid and deliberate censorship and concealment of the extent of the deaths, wounded, damages, displacements, and sufferings?

In the midst of this cruel disaster and cruel "response", Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest was further extended by 6 months. We all have in memory her photo, back in March of this year, a tiny person standing by UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari. She looked like the ghost of her old self - painfully thin, sad, seemingly emptied and broken - maybe the true reflection of her country and her people, after years of "country" arrest, and decades of solitary confinement from democracy.

Yes, the Burmese authorities, should, one day, account for their criminal treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, all democracy activists, ethnic minorities and the people of Burma.

But what about our response to their sufferings? How will we ever be accountable to the countless victims in Burma, for our complicity, or our indifference, or indeed our presumed powerlessness?

We are all made the lesser by Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention and by the continued denial of freedom to the people of Burma.

The continued repression in Burma is a stain on the world's conscience. It has sullied us all.

Dr. Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director

For ARTICLE 19's actions on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma, please click: http://www.article19.org/advocacy/campaigns/assk.html

For Burma Campaign's website, and to take action this week on the occasion of Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, please click: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/mtvaction.html

For further information on the Aung San Suu Kyi case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94458

For further information on the control of information during the September 2007 crackdown, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87497

For further information on post-cyclone media restrictions, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94455

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