U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today made the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi:
"Mr. President, I rise to the floor today to discuss the latest outrage in the long-suffering country of Burma. I speak of the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma's National League for Democracy, the party that won the country's 1990 elections decisively - elections that were quickly nullified by the Burmese military. Imprisoned by the thuggish military junta that runs that country, Ms. Suu Kyi has spent the majority of the past two decades under house arrest. Now the government has moved this remarkable woman to Insein Prison compound and charged her with violating the terms of her house arrest. She is scheduled to stand trial in four days and faces a potential sentence of five years in jail. Two other NLD members face similar charges.
"While reports remain somewhat opaque, these charges appear to stem from the uninvited visit of a U.S. man who entered Ms. Suu Kyi's home compound after swimming across a nearby lake. He then reportedly stayed on her compound for two days, despite requests to leave. Based on this occurrence, the regime appears now to allege that Ms. Suu Kyi has broken the law, by not requesting permission in advance to have a visitor. As a penalty, then, for an uninvited person showing up on her doorstep - while she remained imprisoned inside - the Burmese regime proposes to sentence Ms. Suu Kyi to up to five years in jail.
"All of this represents, of course, just the latest pretext dreamt up by the Burmese junta in order to prevent the legitimately elected leader of the country from interfering in its plans for dominance. The generals who run the country are planning elections,' to be held next year, and which they believe will legitimize their illegitimate rule. They seek ways to ensure that Ms. Suu Kyi and other NLD members are not free to participate in these elections, since it is the NLD - and not the military junta - that has the support of the Burmese people. As political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, fill Burmese jails, the international community should see this process for the sham that it represents.
"I once had the great honor of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a woman of astonishing courage and incredible resolve. Her determination in the face of tyranny inspires me, and every individual who holds democracy dear. Her resilience in the face of untold sufferings, her courage at the hands of a cruel junta, and her composure despite years of oppression inspire the world.
"Because she stands for freedom, this heroic woman has endured attacks, arrest, captivity, and untold sufferings at the hands of the regime. Burma's rulers fear Aung San Suu Kyi because of what she represents - peace, freedom and justice for all Burmese people. The thugs who run Burma have tried to stifle her voice, but they will never extinguish her moral courage.
"The world must now respond to the junta's latest outrage in a way that demonstrates the inevitability of those values she so clearly demonstrates. The work of Aung San Suu Kyi and the members of the National League for Democracy must be the world's work. We must continue to press the junta until it is willing to negotiate an irreversible transition to democratic rule. The Burmese people deserve no less. This means renewing the sanctions that will expire this year, and it means vigorous enforcement by our Treasury Department of the targeted financial sanctions in place against regime leaders. And it means being perfectly clear that we stand on the side of freedom for the Burmese people, and against those who seek to abridge it.
"The message of solidarity with the Burmese people should come from all quarters, and that includes their closest neighbors - the ASEAN countries. The United States, European countries, and others have condemned Ms. Suu Kyi's arrest and called for her immediate release. The countries of Southeast Asia should be at the forefront of this call. ASEAN now has a human rights charter, in which member countries have committed to protect and promote human rights. Now is the time to live up to that commitment, and ASEAN could start by dispatching envoys to Rangoon in order to demand the immediate, unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
"This courageous leader, and all those Burmese who have followed her lead in pressing for their own inalienable rights, should know: All free peoples stand with you and support you. The world is watching not only your brave actions, but also those of the military government, whose cruelty and incompetence know no bounds. Burma's future will be one of peace and freedom, not violence and repression. We, as Americans, stand on the side of freedom, not fear; of peace, not violence; and of the millions in Burma who aspire to a better life, not those who would keep them isolated and oppressed.
"The United States has a critical role to play, in Burma and throughout the world, as the chief voice for the rights and integrity of all persons. It is a role that we suppress at the world's peril, and our own. A strong public defense of the rights of oppressed people has been, and must remain, an enduring element in American foreign policy. Nothing can relieve us of the responsibility to stand up for those whose human rights are in peril, nor of the knowledge that we stand for something in this world greater than self-interest.
"Should we need inspiration to guide us, we need look no further than to that astonishingly courageous leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta's latest actions are, once again, a desperate attempt by a decaying regime to stall freedom's inevitable progress, in Burma and across Asia. They will fail as surely as Aung San Suu Kyi's campaign for a free Burma will one day succeed."