Suu Kyi urges Congress to push Myanmar democracy

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi called for a commission of inquiry into rights abuses in Myanmar.

Washington: Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi addressed US lawmakers by video on Wednesday, calling for a commission of inquiry into rights abuses in Myanmar and urging lawmakers` support for steps to open up "the real road to democracy" there.

Suu Kyi, freed from house arrest seven months ago, questioned whether Myanmar, also known as Burma, has made any real progress toward democracy since flawed elections in November that were meant to end of five decades of military rule.

"If (the government) is sincere in its claims that it wishes to bring democracy into Burma, there is no need for any prisoners of conscience to exist in this country," Suu Kyi said.

Her National League for Democracy party that swept 1990 elections but was barred from taking power has faced years of persecution by authorities.

Rights groups say Myanmar holds more than 2,000 political prisoners. Freeing them is a key demand of the US and other countries that currently maintain tough sanctions against Myanmar and its military leaders.

Suu Kyi called for access to Myanmar for UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana, who is barred from visiting. She supported his call for a commission of inquiry into rights abuses that have taken place in Myanmar, but stressed it would be intended not as a tribunal to punish violators but to ensure rights violations do not recur.

Suu Kyi`s comments were made in videotape statement recorded in Myanmar and aired at a hearing in Washington of the House Foreign Affairs Asia and the Pacific subcommittee. It is the first time the 66-year old democracy leader, who has spent about 15 of the past 22 years under some form of detention, has submitted such a statement to a US congressional committee.

She urged lawmakers to do whatever they can to get Myanmar to implement the demands of a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in March. The resolution — the latest of many adopted by the world body over the years against Myanmar, but with little impact — calls for prisoner releases, freedom of information and association, an independent judiciary and political reconciliation.

Ending a former US policy of diplomatic isolation of the military regime, the Obama administration has attempted to engage Myanmar in the past 18 months but has made little progress.

The subcommittee chairman, Rep Donald Manzullo, R- Illinois, was sceptical about the Obama administration`s engagement policy, saying neither Myanmar`s relations with Washington nor the situation in the country had changed.

"If proponents of pragmatic engagement are correct, then Burmese leaders should recognise this unprecedented opportunity being offered by the Obama administration and seek to improve relations with the US by demonstrating tangible change. Unfortunately, this is not the case," he said.

Bureau Report

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