Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued detention in Myanmar puts the human rights spotlight on a country that has denied both economic rights and freedom of expression to its people in the past year.
The Burmese opposition leader’s current trial, for violating the conditions of her house arrest, was due to resume on Monday but has been postponed until Friday 5 June. Its outcome is not expected to end the detention she has endured for thirteen of the past 19 years.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of more than 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar. Many others were denied economic rights in 2008– a key message in Amnesty International’s 2009 Report, published on Thursday 28 May. This was no more apparent than in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
It is roughly a year ago to the day, on 25 May 2008, that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was able to successfully negotiate an opening of the country to international aid and assistance during a donor’s conference in Yangon.
This was almost a full month after the cyclone struck on 2-3 May, during which time tens of thousands of Burmese people suffered needlessly as a result of the Myanmar government’s refusal to allow foreign aid to enter the country, as well as its obstruction of domestic relief efforts.
Amnesty International documented cases of forced eviction and restrictions on movement and the obstruction and misuse of aid.
It is impossible to know how many of the 140,000 people who died or are missing were victims of the government’s inaction, as opposed to the cyclone itself.
But the numbers would certainly have been far lower had the government not violated its own citizens’ economic rights on such a widespread and systematic scale.
Adding insult to injury, in the year following the cyclone, at least 21 people were detained (and remain in detention) for their cyclone relief efforts; they are prisoners of conscience. They join Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in awaiting freedom and justice.