Burma Project Grantees Rally Global Support Around Aung San Suu Kyi

On May 18, the Burmese junta moved democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest to Insein prison to await new charges after an American man swam across a lake in order to enter her residence. Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled to be released from her house arrest on May 27, 2009. However, these new charges provide an opportunity for the ruling military regime to extend the Nobel Peace Laureate's detention for another five years. Earlier this year, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued the opinion that her detention, dating back to 2003, is arbitrary, unjustified, and in contravention of Burma’s own law.

A coalition of Open Society Institute grantees has launched a major campaign calling for a global arms embargo and international pressure on the Burmese junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi before the military-supervised elections planned for 2010. Messages of support can be posted on a new website, 64 Words for Aung San Suu Kyi, in honor of Aung San Suu Kyi's 64th birthday on June 19. On that day, campaigners across the world will hold a day of action calling on the United Nations to pressure the junta to respond to the demands of the UN Security Council to release all political prisoners in Burma. Many Burma supporters have contributed, including Salman Rushdie, who reminded the world that “This year, silence is impossible.”

June 4 was the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of Zagarnar, one of Burma’s most beloved and outspoken comedians. Zargarnar was arrested after organizing relief efforts in Cyclone Nargis-affected areas and for publically criticizing the military junta’s slow response to Nargis, Burma’s largest humanitarian disaster. In support of over 2,000 political prisoners like Zagarnar and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now! Campaign partnered with Avaaz.org to collect over 670,000 signatures asking for UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon's support. Former political prisoners and families of current political detainees hope to hand-deliver these signatures to Ban Ki-moon in the coming weeks.