Washington, DC – IRI holds Burma’s military rulers responsible for the personal safety of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and demands that they disclose her whereabouts and condition immediately.  IRI calls on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all NLD party members being held in what the junta calls “protective custody.”

Over the weekend Burma’s military junta detained National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 members of the NLD after their motorcade was attacked by a hostile, junta-supported group.  While the military government has claimed casualties of four dead and 50 injured, more credible reports indicate that dozens may have died in the violence.  After the attack, the junta padlocked the doors of NLD offices around the country, cut phone lines and placed members of NLD leadership under house arrest.  In an effort to pre-emptively quash a student uprising, the junta also closed Burma’s universities over the weekend, just as a new semester was about to begin.

IRI wholly condemns Burma’s ruling military junta for this weekend’s cowardly and pre-meditated attack on Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s pro-democracy movement.  This crackdown is a desperate attempt by the junta to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi – the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize – and thwart once and for all any hope for democracy in Burma.

We urge the military to re-open NLD offices and Burmese universities and expect that the international Red Cross, diplomats and the international press be permitted to meet with the detained NLD members and report on their condition without further delay.  We urge United Nations Special Envoy Razali Ismail to strongly chastise the ruling junta when he conducts his scheduled trip to Burma this week and insist upon meeting privately with Aung San Suu Kyi. Lastly, IRI urges the United States government, the United Nations and the international community to increase pressure on the military regime to restore democracy to Burma.

The attack represents the military government’s fear of Aung San Suu Kyi’s immense popularity throughout the country.  Despite constant harassment by “agents of the regime,” thousands of Burmese have come out to greet her during recent trips to re-open NLD offices around the country.  Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won more than 82 percent of the seats in parliament in the country’s 1990 general election, but the military junta has yet to recognize their legitimate mandate to rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest several times over the past 13 years and was released from her last house detention in May 2002.  Her release and subsequent permission to travel on behalf of the NLD was a part of United Nations-brokered confidence building talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.  Talks between the sides have all but ceased in the past year.  United Nations envoy Razali Ismail is scheduled to visit Burma this week to try and jumpstart the stalled dialogue.  This past weekend’s events clearly illustrate the junta’s disregard for genuine dialogue and national reconciliation.  The only way the junta can restore what little credibility they have left is to put the welfare of the Burmese people before their own self-preservation, engage in a political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and set the country on a course for democracy.

IRI has been working with Burma’s pro-democracy movement since 1992.

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