Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
|For Immediate Release: |
September 16, 2009
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553
Boxer Speaks Out for Political Prisoners in Burma
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today joined Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, at a Capitol Hill press conference to discuss a new Human Rights Watch report that highlights the surge of political prisoners in Burma.
Senator Boxer’s preparedremarks follow:
Good morning, and thank you all for coming today. I’d like to say a special hello to Tom Malinowski—the Washington Director of Human Rights Watch. Thank you for all you do to advance the cause of justice in the world.
I’d also like to welcome U Pyinya Zawta, a monk and Burmese democracy leader who spent 10 years in a Burmese prison for his pro-democracy activities. Thank you for your courage.
I am so pleased to be here to speak out on an issue that is near and dear to my heart—the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma.
Tragically, the Human Rights Watch report being released today on Burmese political prisoners confirms what many of us have long known — that the Burmese junta, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council — is intent on continuing to rule Burma with an iron fist and with complete disregard for the basic human rights of its people, maintaining its place on the list of the world’s worst human rights offenders.
By gathering today to release this report, we are sending a strong message to the roughly 2,100 political prisoners who are languishing in Burmese jails:
You have not been forgotten. Your struggle for freedom has not gone unnoticed. We stand here together in solidarity with you and vow to help continue your fight.
We have all seen what this military dictatorship is capable of: we have heard the stories and seen too many images of bloody crackdowns in the streets, of protestors being beaten, of prisoners being tortured, of basic necessities being denied to the Burmese people in the face of natural disaster and tragedy.
I hope that this report sends an unequivocal message to the international community that the dire situation in Burma demands immediate and sustained attention.
I also hope this report appeals to the conscience of those countries that continue to have a close relationship with the Burmese junta.
The Burmese government should not be rewarded for its behavior.
I would also like to say a few words about the icon of freedom and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. Like you, I watched last month with dismay as Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor for simply allowing an American man who swam to her home uninvited to stay overnight.
Although the sentence was reduced to 18 months of house arrest, this conviction is grossly unjust. As you all know, Suu Kyi has already served 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.
She has done nothing wrong. She has committed no crime. She simply led her party — the National League for Democracy — to victory in a democratic election in 1990 and the Burmese junta refused to relinquish power.
I hope that the international community will call out in unison for a fair appeal, which a Burmese court has agreed to hear this Friday.
Let me be clear – we all want to see Burma thrive, with its population able to express its views.
This report is an important step in helping to document the Burmese junta’s long and reprehensible history. Now is the time to speak out firmly and strongly. Thank you for your time.