Thu 29 Oct 2009
Filed under: International
New Delhi – Two Nobel Peace Laureates, Jody Williams and Mairead Maguire, on Thursday reiterated their call for the immediate release of fellow Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, saying without her release there cannot be genuine change in Burma and the ruling junta’s promises of reform would be only “sweet words of democracy”.
Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in banning landmines, during a press conference on Thursday in New Delhi, urged the international community and particularly the United States, which recently announced a new policy of engagement with Burma, to turn engagement into action and bring genuine change and democracy to the plighted Southeast Asian country.
“My personal concern about words and not action is that we hear many ‘sweet words of democracy and change’. Sweet words are terrific, but if it fails to bring change then it is a waste,” Williams remarked.
Williams said the U.S. and the European Union, if they choose to engage the Burmese regime, must ensure human rights conditions in the country are improving and should not start talking about an end to sanctions prior to the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The U.S. in September announced a new policy on Burma, saying it will directly engage the Burmese junta while maintaining existing sanctions, which could be phased-out or tightened depending on the junta’s response to human rights violations.
Williams, who in February 2003 was allowed a rare meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, said the regime must prove their words by setting the Burmese democracy icon free and allowing her and her party to participate in the upcoming elections by conducting a review of the 2008 Constitution.
Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein over the weekend told his Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) counterparts he is hopeful that Aung San Suu Kyi can play a role in national reconciliation and that his government might consider releasing her from detention if she maintains a “good attitude”.
Mairead Maguire, who won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work to bring peace to Northern Ireland, warned ASEAN not to be too full of praise for the Burmese junta and instead focus on pressuring the regime for real changes inside the country.
“The lack of human rights in Burma is a global responsibility – and it is time to pressure Burma to make real change,” Maguire commented.
Maguire added that Burma can only go forward once it hears the voices of ethnic political groups and human rights and democracy prevail.
The Laureates, in a press statement, said they support the call of civil society for “real change” in the lead-up to the elections in 2010, strongly arguing there can be no credible polling without the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the over 2,000 political prisoners.
Williams and Maguire, along with Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi from Iran, are in India’s capital New Delhi at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to mark the 50th anniversary of Tibetans in exile.
While in New Delhi, the Laureates are also meeting with women from Burma living in exile in New Delhi.
“We are asking governments to listen to the voice of the people – and support nonviolent change and democracy in Burma,” said Maguire.