Norway condemns Laureate’s arrest

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Norway, the country where Myanmar’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi won her Nobel Peace Prize, was quick to condemn her arrest during the night. The Nobel Laureate’s arrest came, ironically enough, just as nominations closed for this year’s Peace Prize, putting it back in the news, too.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi speaking from the Nobel podium inside the Oslo City Hall, 21 years after she actually won the Nobel Peace Prize. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is independent from the Norwegian government, but winners are generally hailed by Norwegian politicians. Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide wasted no time in joining other world leaders in blasting a new military coup in Myanmar and demanding the release of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for promoting democracy in the country then still known as Burma.

She was also under house arrest at the time and remained so for another 21 years. She couldn’t come to Oslo to collect her prize until 2012, after the military dictatorship finally eased its grip on power. She was elected leader of a new government in 2015 but it nonetheless has lived under constant military pressure.

“We condemn today’s developments in Myanmar,” Søreide stated Monday morning on the Norwegian government’s website after both Suu Kyi and President Win Mylnt were arrested again. “We urge military leders to adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the elections. Democratically elected politicians must be released.”

‘Tragic’
Norway thus joined protests from the UN, the US, Japan, Australia and even China, which urged the two wides to come to agreement and ensure political and social calm. The army leaders’ move to seize full control over the long-troubled country comes after Suu Kyi’s party won a firm victory in last November’s election and the military’s claims of voting irregularity were deemed unfounded. The military thus grabbed power on the same day Myanmar’s parliament was supposed to open, and declared a state of emergency for at least the next year. The military claimed their power grab was necessary to maintain stability in the country. Suu Kyi responded by urging the public to protest and not accept a return to military dictatorship.

Suu Kyi has recently become the subject of international criticism, also in Norway, for not having done more for Myanmar’s Rohingya minority since her election and for not firmly cracking down on the military’s attacks on the Rohingya. Others have noted that Suu Kyi had to be careful in exerting her own power, as efforts continued to rally for peace and human rights in Myanmar. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who has followed developments in Myanmar closely, called Suu Kyi’s arrest on Monday “tragic.”

New Nobel nominations in hand
The Norwegian Nobel Committee hadn’t issued any statements on Suu Kyi’s arrest as of mid-morning Monday. Staff at the Nobel Institute in Oslo are poised, meanwhile, to sort through the nominations for this year’s Peace Prize that were received by the January 31 deadline.

While the Norwegian Nobel Institute never reveals nominations, those able to nominate (including, among others, former winners, elected members of national assemblies, heads of state and university professors) can do so. Members of the Norwegian Parliament have been actively revealing their choices lately and they include media organizations promoting a free press, fact-checking organizations and at least one journalist who’s been persecuted by her government, Maria Ressa of the Philippines (nominated by the head of Norway’s Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre).

MPs from the Liberal Party have nominated the Hongkong Free Press and the international vaccine organizations Cepi and Gavi, while other MPs have nominated opposition and pro-democracy leaders in Belarus, Hungary and Poland, the Black Lives Matter movement and even ice hockey clubs in Kirkenes and the Barents area, for promoting people-to-people cooperation across the border to Russia.

Questions arose quickly over whether any of the politicians’ proposed winners will meet the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, which specified that winners should have done the most or best for global fraternity, arms reduction or peace congresses. The organization Nobel Peace Prize Watch (NPPW), meanwhile, has proposed a list of as many as 43 screened nominees deemed to satisfy Nobel’s criteria, including whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and journalist John Pilger. The entire list can be found here (external link to NPPW’s list).

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund