Madame Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Europe is politically significant in the context of Burma’s nascent reform process and diplomatic openings. The release of prominent political prisoners in January and the National League for Democracy’s participation in by-elections on 1 April were followed by the easing of sanctions by the US, EU, Canada, Australia and Norway. Japan canceled 60% of Burma’s outstanding debt and resumed financial aid. However, more than 400 political prisoners remain in jail while those who were released have not regained all their civil and political rights; the international community should heed Madame Suu Kyi’s appeal in her Nobel lecture and press for their immediate and unconditional release. Legal reforms have been extremely limited, and public protests over economic and social rights have been severely repressed by authorities.
“Last weeks’ outbreak of communal violence in Arakan State as well as the escalating war in Kachin and Northern Shan States add urgency to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for genuine and systematic reform, to ensure that Burma’s diverse population enjoys justice and protection from violations”, said Debbie Stothard, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General and coordinator of Altsean-Burma.
“The FIDH has called for extreme caution over the easing of economic sanctions against Burma and the anticipated increase in foreign investment. The absence of an independent judiciary and the lack of accountability of State agencies involved in oil and gas contracts as well as mega-development projects combine to create a highly risky environment in which foreign investments in these sectors could lead to serious human rights abuses”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.
“The suspension of sanctions should be benchmarked to further steps, in particular the release of all remaining political prisoners and an end to breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law in ethnic areas”, said Pierre Tartakowsky, president of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme.
“During her European tour, Aung San Suu Kyi has emphasized that national reconciliation and reconstruction in Burma will require a global effort by all parties. It should not rely solely on two individuals – Madame Suu Kyi herself and President Thein Sein – but be broad-based and inclusive of the entire Burmese population, including exiles and the displaced”, said Mathieu Flammarion, president of Info Birmanie.