Senators Feinstein and Hutchison Condemn the Harsh and Unjust Sentencing of 61 Democracy Activists in Burma; Renew Calls for the Release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Political Prisoners
Nov 13 2008
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Co-Chairs of the Senate Women’s Caucus on Burma, today condemned the recent harsh and unjust sentencing of more than 60 democracy activists by Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Senators Feinstein and Hutchison also urged the military junta to release all political prisoners, including democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Following is the joint statement issued by Senators Feinstein and Hutchison, deploring the junta’s recent actions:
"As co-chairs of the Senate Women’s Caucus on Burma, we strongly condemn the recent harsh and unjust sentencing of democracy activists by Burma’s military regime.
These sentences set a new standard for repression in Burma.
According to news reports, in the past two weeks alone, the junta has sentenced more than 60 democracy activists in closed, secret trials -- without legal representation -- for their participation in last year’s Saffron Revolution.
The severe and disproportionate sentences range from two years for a poem tinged with political satire to up to 65 years for peaceful protests. And from all indications, it appears that the junta continues to dole out additional sentences by the day.
Among the sentences:
- The popular Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his web postings reporting the September 2007 demonstrations.
- 14 democratic activists, including members of the opposition party, the National League for Democracy, and the‘88 Generation Students’ group, were sentenced to prison terms of 65 years each for nonviolent offenses, including holding foreign currency without permission and lacking permits for various types of ordinary electronic equipment.
- Five Buddhist monks from the Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery were sentenced to six and a half years in prison each for their participation in the protests;
- A well-known poet, Saw Wai, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for publishing a satirical poem which mocked the junta’s despotic ruler, General Than Shwe;
- A prominent labor activist, Ma Su Su New, was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison for peaceful protests;
- Additionally, lawyers for several of the activists were themselves arrested and sentenced last week for contempt of court.
It is estimated by international human rights groups that the military regime now holds more than 2,100 political prisoners. That’s nearly double the level held prior to the ‘Saffron Revolution’ demonstrations.
These latest actions demonstrate not only the military regime’s utmost contempt for justice and democracy, but their steadfast determination to block meaningful democratic change for the people of Burma.
We urge UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to move forward swiftly with his proposed visit to Burma next month to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. The time for political reconciliation is long overdue in Burma.”