Elders demand release of all Myanmar's political prisoners

13th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Elders, a group of retired world statesmen, urged the release of all political detainees in Myanmar after democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- one of their number -- was freed Saturday.

Welcoming the news, Elders chair Archbishop Desmond Tutu said her release gave the country's people hope, while former US president Jimmy Carter urged heavyweight neighbours China and India to use their influence to encourage dialogue and stability.

Aung San Suu Kyi is an honorary Elder. The group places an empty chair for her at their meetings.

Tutu said in a statement: "Aung San Suu Kyi's release offers hope to the people of Burma, who face uncertain times following the November 7 elections.

"She is a global symbol of moral courage and we wish her strength and health as she makes her own transition from such a long period under house arrest.

"We are of course absolutely delighted that she is free, and stand ready to assist her and the people of Burma in any way that we can."

Carter added: "We urge the government to maintain the ceasefires with the armed groups. Burma's neighbours, especially China and India, have a great deal of interest in stability in the region and I hope they will also try to encourage dialogue between the government and ethnic groups.

"It is sad to see a country of such great natural wealth that is so fractured and unable to properly protect and care for its people in a way that allows all of them to prosper."

The Elders, which has its offices in London, called for the release of all the country's political prisoners, while urging the Myanmar regime to place no conditions on Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

Former Irish president Mary Robinson said freeing Aung San Suu Kyi was an important gesture.

"But her release should not detract attention from more than two thousand other political prisoners who remain incarcerated," she added.

"We should not forget that Daw Suu Kyi's detention served to deny the will of the people at the last elections more than two decades ago and to silence her. Little seems to have changed in that regard."

The Elders also drew attention to the wider political and humanitarian situation in Myanmar.

Last Sunday's elections cannot be called "free and fair", they said, adding that the coming months "may be unpredictable and uncertain".

"Much more needs to be done by the government to convince its own citizens and the international community that it is serious about greater political participation and reconciliation."

Meanwhile the humanitarian situation is "dire" and donors must take "more active and imaginative approaches" to addressing Myanmar's urgent health, education and food needs", The Elders said.

© 2010 AFP

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