Sunday, February 28, 2010

US lawmaker seeks to punish Myanmar on Suu Kyi

(AFP) – 22 hours ago
WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday criticized Myanmar's Supreme Court for not releasing Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, with one lawmaker saying the time had come to tighten sanctions.

The military-ruled nation's highest court rejected an appeal by the democracy champion to be freed from house arrest. The verdict comes ahead of elections which have raised deep suspicions among the opposition and overseas.

"We condemn the Supreme Court's decision," a State Department official said, saying that Aung San Suu Kyi was being held under house arrest "for purely political reasons."

The official, who by protocol could not be named, said that the United States "strongly" urged Myanmar to free other political prisoners and allow them to participate fully in the political process.

Representative Joe Crowley, a Democrat who has long championed Aung San Suu Kyi, said the time had come for the United States to implement tighter sanctions that target military leader Than Shwe's regime.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's 14-year imprisonment has been a sham from day one," Crowley said.

"The cruel military junta must face consequences for violating the human rights of the Burmese people," he said, using Myanmar's former name of Burma.

The United States last year opened dialogue with Myanmar as part of the Obama administration's policy of reaching out to adversarial regimes.

The Obama administration argued that the previous tactic of isolating Myanmar had failed, although it said it would only ease sanctions in return for progress on democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades since her National League for Democracy swept 1990 elections. The junta plans to hold fresh elections later this year.

The opposition leader had her incarceration lengthened by 18 months in August after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside home.

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