Reform Jewish Leader Calls on Burmese Government to Release Pro-Democracy Activist
Saperstein: By obstructing Suu Kyi and her fellow party members' right to free speech, the Burmese junta is violating a central understanding of our shared humanity.
Contact:Alexis Rice or Jacob Fain 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, June 10, 2003 - In a statement issued today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, condemn the arrest of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 other political activists committed to a democratic Myanmar and urged the U.S. government to press for their release. The complete letter follows:
We condemn the May 30 arrest of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 other political activists committed to a democratic Myanmar. We call on the Burmese government to immediately release her from custody. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and her compatriots were ambushed by military junta forces and supporters and placed in "protective custody" for allegedly violating traffic laws, disturbing the peace and engaging in political campaigning.
By violating the human rights of Myanmar's most popular and respected supporter of democracy, the Burmese junta's actions have yet again undermined their own legitimacy and hope for political reform. As the leader of the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi overwhelmingly won the 1990 elections--the only general elections in recent history. Yet the military junta has continuously barred her from taking power.
Jewish tradition teaches that all humans were created B'Tzelem Elohim - in the image of God - and thus all have equal rights. By obstructing Suu Kyi and her fellow party members' right to free speech, the Burmese junta is violating a central understanding of our shared humanity. In addition to Suu Kyi's immediate release, we call as well for a return the national reconciliation process that has been stumbling along for almost three years. We also commend the leadership of Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other members of Congress who have introduced legislation that would sanction Burma's ruling military junta, and would authorize the President to "use all available resources to assist Burmese democracy activists dedicated to nonviolent opposition to the regime in their efforts to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights" in that country, and urge its passage as expeditiously as possible.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .