/ 11 August 2009

EU vows ‘targeted measures’ over Suu Kyi verdict

The European Union on Tuesday condemned the verdict against Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and vowed ”targeted measures” against the military regime, the European Union (EU) presidency announced.

”The EU will respond with additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict,” the presidency said in a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc.

”In addition, the EU will further reinforce its restrictive measures targeting the regime of Burma, including its economic interests,” it added.

Suu Kyi was on Tuesday ordered to stay under house arrest for a further 18 months after a prison court convicted the Nobel laureate at the end of her internationally condemned trial.

The sentence means that the 64-year-old opposition leader will remain in detention during elections promised by Burma’s iron-fisted ruling junta next year.

The court at Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment and hard labour for breaching the terms of her house arrest following an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside residence in May.

But Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta, signed an order commuting the sentence and allowing Suu Kyi to serve out just a year-and-a-half under house arrest, Home Affairs Minister General Maung Oo said after the verdict.

The EU ”condemns the verdict against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi… and the unjustified trial against her, the statement from Brussels said.

Calling the charges a ”breach of national and international law” the EU called on the Burma regime to ”immediately and unconditionally release her”.

Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since the junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in elections in 1990.

The EU imposed sanctions on Burma in 1996, banning arms exports, imposing visa restrictions on junta allies aqnd families, limiting diplomatic contacts and freezing officials’ offshore accounts.

New measures were taken in 2007 after a crackdown on pro-democracy protests by Buddhist monks, banning European firms from importing wood, minerals, gems and metals from Burma.

The sanctions also limit diplomatic relations between the Southeast Asian nation and the European bloc.

France said in May that if Europe imposes new sanctions on Burma’s military regime they would hit the French energy giant Total’s operations in the country.

Total, France’s largest and most profitable company, has been a major investor in Burma’s Yadana gas field since 1992. Production from Yadana represents 60% of Burma’s gas exports to Thailand.

The Burma authorities ”have chosen to ignore the protests over her arrest and the appeals” for Suu Kyi’s release, led by the UN secretary general, and Asean of which Burma is a member, the EU statement charged.

”The EU will intensify its work with the international community, and especially with its partners in Asia, to achieve our common aim of obtaining the immediate and unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners in Burma,” the EU promised.

This is ”an essential first step in the process of genuine national reconciliation that is needed if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible, free and fair”, it added.

The message stressed the EU’s ”strong and unwavering commitment to support and sustain the people of Burma. The EU provides the people with substantial humanitarian assistance and stands ready to increase its support further”. — AFP