Norway condemns Peace Prize winner's imprisonment

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Norway’s foreign ministry has joined those calling for the immediate release from prison of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese opposition leader was taken from her home in Rangoon by government authorities and transferred from house arrest to the Insein Jail in Rangoon for allegedly receiving an unauthorized visitor.

A former Norwegian prime minister and the Norwegian Burma Committee were among those to quickly condemn the imprisonment early Thursday of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. They were joined later in the day by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who demanded her immediate release.

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik went on national radio to condemn Burma’s military government’s latest move against the popular opposition leader. Bondevik, who now heads an Oslo-based peace institute and has long supported Aung San Suu Kyi’s fight for democracy in Burma, urged swift international condemnation as well.

So did the Norwegian Burma Committee, which also voiced concern over the 64-year-old prisoner’s health. “We fear this is an attempt to break her both physically and mentally,” said committee leader Inger Lise Husøy. “Norwegian authorities must condemn this arrest and contribute to strong international pressure against (Burma’s) junta through the the United Nations, but also regionally through ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by allowing an American visitor to stay overnight at her dilapidated home by a lake in Rangoon last week. The American reportedly swam to her property and was too tired to swim back to his starting point.

A trial is due to start on Monday. “The junta is using this incident as an excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi in custody, since her period of house arrest is nearing an end,” Husøy claimed.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent more than 13 years under house arrest, and was due to be released May 27.

She has never been able to collect the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 for what was called her “outstanding work for democracy and human rights.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee said at the time that she was “still fighting the good fight,” and her quiet defiance of Burma’s military junta has continued since then.

Her supporters claimed that the Burmese government’s latest action shows how frightened they are of her. Husøy said it also shows “how dangerous it is for the opposition in Burma, and that the junta doesn’t want any democratic reforms ahead of elections next year.”