Monday, November 16, 2009

Burma: Cautious hope for release of democracy icon

SBS World News reports supporters of Burma's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi voiced guarded hope after US President Barack Obama raised her case directly with the junta, but some accused Southeast Asian leaders of undercutting his message.

In Singapore, Obama on Sunday held a first-ever summit with leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations where he pressed member Burma to enter dialogue with the opposition.

The summit was a dramatic symbol of the Obama administration's new approach of engaging Burma.

The White House said Obama asked Prime Minister Thein Sein to free all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of her time under house arrest since her party swept 1990 elections and was prevented from taking power.

But in a joint statement, the US and ASEAN leaders made no mention of Aung San Suu Kyi and only called for Burma next year to hold a free election - which the opposition has called a sham aimed at legitimising the junta.

Aung Din, a former political prisoner who heads the US Campaign for Burma advocacy group, said that Obama sent a powerful signal by pressuring the junta in person in front of the other nine ASEAN leaders.

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