Free Aung San Suu Kyi

June 19, 2005

IN 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi was legally elected the leader of Myanmar, then named Burma. But she has spent most of the time since 1989 under some form of detention, including house arrest for the last two years. From time to time, the military junta that imprisons Ms. Suu Kyi promises to release her, but today supporters around the world observe her 60th birthday with no sign of her freedom.

The leader of her country's National League for Democracy is only the most well-known Burmese political prisoner. Last week, Amnesty International reported there are at least 1,350 other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar. The regime is notorious for its brutalities, including slave labor, ethnic cleansing, torture, military rapes and forced migrations. Myanmar is a major exporter of narcotics, refugees and AIDS, a destabilizing presence in Southeast Asia and a black mark on ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - of which Myanmar is slated to become chairman next year.

U.S. and European economic sanctions against Myanmar are in place - and must be extended - but its generals survive with support from profiteering neighbors. An appropriate birthday present for Ms. Suu Kyi would be for ASEAN, at its meeting next month in Laos, to reject being led by this pariah. And on the occasion of her birthday, all free nations should call for her and her fellow political prisoners' immediate release, as the United States and Britain did last week.

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