Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was quick to condemn what he called the Burmese military dictatorship’s latest attempt to keep Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi out of the country’s election next year.
The military rulers who are trying to hang on to power in Burma (Myanmar) announced Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who’s been held in house arrest for 13 years, must remain in detention for another 18 months. A Burmese court sentenced her to three years in prison, which the military regime commuted to an extension of her house arrest until after next year’s scheduled election.
She had been charged earlier with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American citizen attempted to visit her earlier this year by swimming to her dilapidated lake-front home in Rangoon. She was blamed for his intrusion.
Støre called Tuesday’s conviction “political,” aimed at removing Aung San Suu Kyi as a participant in the upcoming election. There’s little question she poses a threat to the military regime’s power and that her participation in the election could topple the regime.
Støre added that the conviction also means the regime has lost an opportunity to show that it wants any development of democracy in Burma. “A release of Aung San Suu Kyi would have been a step in the right direction,” Støre said.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 and she has long had widespread support in Norway across the political spectrum. Norway has repeatedlycalled for her release,and for the release of all political prisoners in Burma.
Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democrats was also on national radio Tuesday morning, criticizing this latest effort by the Burmese dictators to keep her away from the Burmese people.
Støre urged international reaction to the conviction and said he would take up the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention when he meets with the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, later this month.