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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6808


Mrs HULL (7:10 PM) —In September 1988, the Burmese National League for Democracy, the NLD, was formed, with Suu Kyi as the general secretary. Since then she has been in this most remarkable position. I congratulate the member for Page, Janelle Saffin, for bringing forward this motion for Australians to continue to support Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi is influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and, more specifically, Buddhist concepts. Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratisation, helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988 and was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. She was offered her freedom if she left her country but she refused.

One of her most famous speeches is the freedom from fear speech, which begins:

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

In 1990, the military junta called a general election, which the National League for Democracy won with certainty. Being the candidate, Aung San Suu Kyi under normal conditions would have assumed the office of Prime Minister. Instead, the results were nullified and the military refused to hand over power. Consequently, there was an international outcry, as there should have been. Aung San Suu Kyi was forced into house arrest at her home on University Avenue in Rangoon.

During her arrest, she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize the year after. Aung San Suu Kyi used that Nobel Peace Prize of US$1.3 million to set up a health and education trust for the Burmese people. Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest on numerous occasions since she began her political career, spending 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest. During these periods, she has been barred from meeting her party supporters and international visitors. International visitors have likewise been prevented from meeting her.

Suu Kyi met the leader of Burma, General Tan Shwe, who was accompanied by General Khint Yunt, on 20 September 1994 while under house arrest. It was the first meeting that she had had since she had been placed in detention. When the military government has released Suu Kyi from house arrest, it has made clear that if she left the country to visit her family in the United Kingdom it would not allow her to return. It is the unfortunate case that, after Suu Kyi underwent a hysterectomy in September 2003, the government again placed her under arrest in Rangoon.

The results from UN facilitation have certainly been mixed. She has had the opportunity to meet special envoys from the UN, but that has led to no real outcome. There have been significant issues for the people of Burma, who have always sought to have her removed from detention. Many nations and figures have continued to call for her release and that of 2,001 other political prisoners in the country. The UN has attempted to facilitate dialogue between the junta and Suu Kyi. On 6 May 2002, following secret confidence-building negotiations led by the United Nations, the government released her and a government spokesman said that she was free to move because ‘we are confident that we can trust each other’. Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed that this was a new dawn for the country. However, on 30 May 2003, a government sponsored mob attacked her caravan in the northern village of Depayin, murdering and wounding many of her supporters. The government again imprisoned her in Rangoon.

Aung San Suu Kyi has received vocal support from many Western nations in Europe, Australasia and North and South America, as well as India, Israel, Japan and South Korea. In December 2007, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously, 400 to zero, to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal. The Senate concurred on 25 April 2008. On 6 May 2008 also, President Bush signed legislation awarding Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal. (Time expired)