Campaigners across the globe are honoring the
birthday Friday of Burma's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The
Burmese pro-democracy leader spent her 64th birthday at Rangoon's notorious
Insein prison, where she is on trial and facing up to five years behind bars.
Activists and politicians are marking Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th birthday
with gatherings of support from Thailand to Europe and the United
In addition, a coalition of 23 Burma rights groups has formed "64forsuu.org",
a website where supporters can post messages urging her release from
Johnny Chatterton is with the Burma Campaign UK and Project
Manager for 64forSuu.org. He says they have received over 9,000 messages of
support, including from politicians and celebrities.
"I think the site is
very important in showing that right across the world people have not forgotten
her," Chatterton said. "And, that there's a huge political support for her and
there's public support calling for her to be freed. So, I think it's a great
help in showing the Burmese regime that they can't just get away with this and
that the world won't forget her."
Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial for
violating the terms of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American man to
stay over without official permission.
The trial has been widely
condemned as a sham designed to keep her locked up through next year's
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
party won Burma's last elections in 1990. But Burma's military rulers ignored
the results and placed her under house arrest, where she has remained for most
of the last 19 years.
Burma's military rulers cite ongoing fighting with
ethnic insurgent groups in the country to partly justify their continued grip on
However, rights groups and exiled politicians say the detention of
Aung San Suu Kyi, along with more than 2,000 other political prisoners, is the
real barrier to peace.
Zin Linn is a spokesman for the Burmese government
"Aung San Suu Kyi is key to the national reconciliation in
Burma," Linn said. "Without her, Burma cannot have genuine national
reconciliation. That's because all the ethnic leaders, ceasefire leaders, all
the ethnic party leaders, all dissident leaders, all the leaders, they agree to
give their mandate to Aung San Suu Kyi to sit down at the dialogue table with
the military junta."
Aung San Suu Kyi led Burma's non-violent resistance
movement for democracy, and in 1991 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her
She is the daughter of Burma's revered founder, General Aung
San, who was assassinated just months before the country gained
Paulo Pinheiro was the U.N. human rights envoy to Burma
from 2000 to 2008 and on several occasions met Aung San Suu Kyi as well as
Burmese officials. He says if it was not for her famous father the military
government would probably have executed her by now.
"Because she has an
enormous charisma and she is the only leader inside Burma of the opposition,"
Pinheiro said. "And, they don't want to risk having her in freedom. They don't
want to deal with a strong opposition movement."
Burmese authorities have
already re-worked the constitution to ensure the military remains in power
regardless of the 2010 elections.
Pinheiro says it is almost certain the
court will find Aung San Suu Kyi guilty, but would likely put her back under
house arrest rather than prison.
Supporters are concerned her health
would quickly deteriorate in prison.
But there is little doubt about the
resilient spirit of Aung San Suu Kyi and the movement for democracy in Burma
that she represents.