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Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Page: 4517

Ms JULIE BISHOP (3:25 PM) —On indulgence: it was in July 1989 that Aung San Suu Kyi was first placed under house arrest by the Burmese junta that has ruled Burma since 1962. In July 1989, Burma was leading up to elections that were in fact held the following year. The party that Aung San Suu Kyi was leading, the National League for Democracy, had gained widespread support throughout Burma, and it is widely believed that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in July 1989 was to thwart their aspirations to win seats in the forthcoming election. In fact, in 1990 the National League for Democracy won 82 per cent of the popular vote, yet their leader of course was still under house arrest.

She went on to be awarded the Nobel prize for what was described at the time as one of the loneliest and most courageous battles for freedom and democracy the world had ever seen. As the Minister  for Foreign Affairs indicated, over the past 19 years Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in detention, under house arrest, at her home in Rangoon for 13 of them. The most recent period of detention has been for six years, and it is a rather cruel irony that the Burmese regime would serve Aung San Suu Kyi with a notice stating that her current period of detention expires on 27 May when she is in fact in detention on what we would describe as trumped-up charges that are being heard in a sham trial designed to ensure that they can extend the period of detention so that Aung San Suu Kyi does not take part in the next elections, which are scheduled for 2010.

The National League for Democracy still has widespread support. Aung San Suu Kyi has extraordinary support among the people of Burma. When I visited her in 1995, I noticed that there were hundreds of people gathered outside her home waiting to catch a glimpse of her. I would imagine that today hundreds if not thousands of people in Burma would still be gathered around her home in Rangoon to show support.

The coalition joins with the government and other countries in condemning the Burmese regime for these acts which have detained and isolated Aung San Suu Kyi over the past two decades. In particular, we support the statements of President Obama that this is a sham trial and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coalition stands with the government on this issue. We urge other countries in the region, including China and India, who have bilateral relations with Burma, to use whatever pressure they can bring to bear on the Burmese regime to secure the immediate and unconditional release of freedom and democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.