Sep 17, 2003

Statements by Members: Human Rights: Burma


17 September 2003

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (9.52 a.m.) —On 30 May this year, Aung San Suu Kyi visited the Sagaing division in the north of Burma. This visit was a popular triumph, and large crowds welcomed her to the opening of a new office of the National League for Democracy, or NLD. At that time, members of the pro-junta Union Solidarity Development Association were deployed to attack the motorcade. This led to the death of a number of NLD supporters. Following this attack, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested. She is being held under section 10(a) of the 1975 State Protection Law. This law allows detention without access to family or lawyers for 180 days at a time, for up to a total of five years. Aung San Suu Kyi has no prospect of appeal. It is very clear that this was a premeditated attack and crackdown. The day after the attack, all NLD offices throughout the nation were closed. The regime also ordered the immediate closure of universities and tertiary colleges, just two days before the start of the new term. This attack on democracy should concern all Australians and all those good citizens of the international community who are concerned to uphold democratic and human rights.

The National League for Democracy received 82 per cent of the vote in the May 1990 general election. It is very clear that it is the legitimate government. The military junta has oppressed the Burmese people and is responsible for murder and constant human rights abuses. The current detention follows Ms Kyi’s being held in detention prior to May 2002 for some 19 months. If we are to have credibility in speaking about human rights abuses and the need for democracy in places like Iraq, Australia must take a much stronger stance on the Burmese situation. The situation whereby Australia has a so-called Burma human rights initiative is simply not good enough. As South Africa showed us, sanctions do work, and the Burmese government should be isolated until such time as the junta steps aside and the democratically elected government takes its place. (Time expired)