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Activists Welcome Call by 112 Former Presidents and Prime Ministers for UN to Achieve Release of Burmese Political Prisoners by December 31st (click to view PDF)

Former Leaders Call for Security Council Action if Deadline Not Met

Press Release
December 3rd, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) A leading human rights organization today welcomed an unprecedented display of support for the release of all political prisoners in the Southeast Asian country of Burma.

On the heels of a massive wave of imprisonments in Burma, over 100 former Presidents and Prime Ministers — from the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa — issued a joint call (attached) for the United Nations Security Council to take action on Burma unless all political prisoners are released by December 31st, 2008.

The letter was spearheaded by former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. Other former Presidents and Prime Ministers joining the effort include Corazon Aquino, Vaclav Havel, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Vicente Fox, Mary Robinson, Alejandro Toledo, Joaquim Chissano, Jacques Delors, Abdou Diouf, Elbegdorj Tsakhiagiin, Kim Dae-jung, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Howard, Lionel Jospin, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Benjamin Mkapa, Brian Mulroney, Romano Prodi, José Ramos-Horta, Margaret Thatcher, Alejandro Toledo, Mary Robinson, and Lech Walesa.

It is believed that never before in history have this many former leaders issued a call for action, on any issue.

The call came in the form of a public letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The letter recalls that the UN Security Council demanded in October 2007 that all Burmese political prisoners must be released without delay.

Instead of releasing political prisoners, the leader of Burma’s military regime, Than Shwe, has nearly doubled the number of prisoners of conscience in Burma to over 2,100. Those incarcerated include renowned activist Min Ko Naing, Burma’s most prominent comedian Zarganar, journalists, hip-hop stars, musicians, Buddhist monks and nuns, cyclone volunteers, and the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It is time for the UN Secretary-General to respond to these Presidents and Prime Ministers and immediately get on a plane to Burma,” said Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “If the Secretary-General prefers not to travel to Burma, then he must urge the Security Council to take immediate action such as a global arms embargo on Than Shwe’s military regime. He has the duty to respond to the crisis in Burma, effectively,” added Aung Din.

Than Shwe is among the world’s most brutal military dictators. Besides locking up political prisoners, he has overseen the destruction of 3,300 ethnic minority villages in eastern Burma which has forced over 1 million refugees to flee the country and an additional 1/2 million to hide inside Burma’s borders as internal displaced persons. At the same time, the regime has recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, more than any other country in the world, and carried out a campaign of rape and sexual violence against ethnic minority women.

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