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59 Former Heads of State Call for Release of World’s Only Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
May 15, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum: (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC, May 15, 2007) A leading human rights organization today praised a call by 59 former Presidents and Prime Ministers from around the world for the release of the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is held under house arrest in the Southeast Asian country of Burma.

“This many former heads of state joining together to publicly call for the release of an imprisoned leader may be unprecedented in world history,” said Aung Din, a former Burmese political prisoner and policy director at the U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB). “We are especially grateful that many Asian leaders joined the call, something which has never been done before.” The effort was joined by every single living American ex-President.

The call came in the form of an open letter to the leader of Burma’s military regime, General Than Shwe, which was copied to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The letter stated that Ban Ki-moon had called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in early January, but the regime had yet to respond. The letter also pointed out that Burma’s neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had also called for the release of Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in the country.

Read the letter: “On January 8, 2007, new United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on you to release Aung San Suu Kyi. May 27, 2007 affords an excellent opportunity to respond to his request. Indeed, the UN General Assembly, former UN Commission on Human Rights, ASEAN, European Union, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and many other countries have all called for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate release.”

The move came one week after 14 United Nations experts in Geneva, in an unprecedented move, called on the military regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi, and two weeks before the end of Suu Kyi’s scheduled detention on May 27th. In the past, the regime has extended the detention for a period of months, but it is unclear whether they will respond.

“We would like the military regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi immediately,” added Aung Din. Activist groups are organizing more than 300 events around the world to press for change in Burma on June 19th, Suu Kyi’s 62nd birthday.

Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes, which has destroyed 3,000 villages in the eastern section of the country while imprisoning Suu Kyi and 1,200 other political prisoners. The regime has also recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world. Suu Kyi has been imprisoned for more than 11 of the past 17 years.

Since September 2006, Burma has been on the permanent agenda of the United Nations Security Council. The United Nations Security Council has taken action on numerous countries similar to Burma, but has been blocked from doing so on Burma by China.

“This effort is the beginning of a new, sustained, high-level campaign to support the United Nation’s call for national reconciliation in Burma,” added Aung Din. “We call on citizens throughout the world to join us in this effort.”

The letter was spearheaded by former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.