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US Campaign for Burma Denounces Thailand’s Prime Minister for Accepting Imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize Recipient (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
December 14th, 2004
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at 202-223-0300

(Washington, DC) The United States Campaign for Burma today condemned Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for labeling the incarceration of 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi “reasonable” and claiming her release could lead to the disintegration of Burma.

After returning from a half day trip to Burma, during which he met with the Burmese military regime’s top leader Than Shwe, Prime Minister Thaksin stated: “These are the reasons they gave (for holding Suu Kyi), which are reasonable enough and convincing, because I have witnessed many things in their process.”

The comments make Thaksin the only leader in the world to be convinced of the need for the incarceration of Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel laureate.

Thaksin’s opinion stands in stark contrast to recent demands by other world leaders. His comments, given on his weekly radio broadcast on Dec 11, came one day after the European Union issued a declaration condemning the Burmese regime’s detention of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. The EU demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Suu Kyi. A few days earlier, US President George W. Bush condemned the detention of Suu Kyi. Regional leaders Indonesia and Malaysia also called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi. Indonesia suggested that Burma may not be allowed to host an important regional summit in 2006 unless Burma makes serious progress toward democracy.

Aung Din, a former political prisoner in Burma and policy director of US Campaign for Burma, said “Prime Minister Thaksin is steadily isolating himself from international opinion toward Burma. His comments show that he is only interested in expanding his personal wealth”. 

Thaksin, through his immediate family, maintains holdings in major corporations doing business with Burma. Earlier this year the Burmese regime commenced a contract through one of Thaksin’s family firms, which was funded through a grant paid for by Thai taxpayers. The deal has come under sharp criticism in the Thai parliament and press.

Suu Kyi has spent the majority of the past 15 years under house arrest. Her first house arrest lasted almost six years from July 1989 to June 1995. Her second house arrest lasted 19 months between October 2000 and May 2002. She was arrested again on May 30, 2003 after the Burmese regime botched an attempt to assassinate her during her organizing trip in central Burma. Even though Suu Kyi survived the attack, scores of her political supporters were beaten to death with clubs, spears, and iron rods.

The regime subsequently arrested her, claiming it was for her own protection. However, the regime recently changed its explanation and extended the incarceration, claiming she is a threat to state security.

The extension earned condemnation from the EU, US, Italy, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, New Zealand, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The US State Department has suggested the United States may boycott a major 2006 summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), scheduled to be held in Burma in 2006, unless the regime initiates a transition to democracy.

Under the Thaksin administration, Thailand has become the leading defender of the Burmese military regime, heading off international criticism at regional meetings and attempting to sideline Suu Kyi from Burma’s political future.