BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McConnell. Mr. President, this past weekend produced the first heartening news out of Burma in recent memory. Coming just days after the junta held its charade-like elections, this past Saturday Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest where she had spent 15 of the past 21 years.
While fellow advocates of democracy in Burma rightly rejoice in her being freed, our feelings of joy and relief are tempered by several sobering concerns. First, there is the matter of her safety. We all remember the brutal attack against her in 2003. That must not be permitted to happen again. Second, we know Suu Kyi has been released in the past only to be later detained on trumped-up charges. We want her release to be permanent, not temporary. Third, although she was granted unconditional release, it remains to be seen whether the regime will tolerate her active participation in public affairs. And that is essential for Burma to undertake any meaningful progress toward democracy. Finally, while Suu Kyi has been released from detention, more than 2,000 other prisoners of conscience remain imprisoned in Burma. Only when all are unconditionally freed can the people of Burma truly begin the process of democratic reform and reconciliation.
Make no mistake, the release of Suu Kyi is a positive step forward in Burma. Yet it is only the first--and by no means the final--step that must take place in that beleaguered country.