Desmond Tutu says global community must act on Aung San Suu Kyi

By staff writers
May 31, 2009

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called on the international community to do more to secure the release of the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is facing trial for breaking the terms of her house arrest.

Archbishop Tutu, the Noble Peace Laureate and internationally known anti-apartheid and human rights campaigner, made his comments in an interview with the BBC earlier today.

He has also been speaking at the Hay literary festival.

A group of 'elders', statespeople and Nobel Laureates, including Archbishop Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter, issued a statement calling for Suu Kyi's release last week.

Dr Tutu said that not enough pressure was being applied to the Burmese dictatorship. He added that it might be necessary and appropriate to invoke the United Nations 'duty to protect' to intervene in the country - though many observers say that armed intervention would not be a wise or helpful move and would endanger the lives of tens of thousands.

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among those who sent birthday wishes to Suu Kyi on Wednesday last week (27 May 2009), joining an online campaign to mark her 64th birthday this coming month - as reported on Ekklesia.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace prize winner herself, is on trial in Myanmar (Burma) accused of violating the terms of her house arrest. If found guilty, she faces up to five years in prison.

Human rights campaigners are encouraging well-wishers to enter 64-word messages of support for Suu Kyi before her 19 June 2009 birthday on the "64 words for Aung San Suu Kyi" web site (

"I add my voice to the growing chorus of those demanding your release. For too long the world has failed to act in the face of this intolerable injustice. That is now changing," Mr Brown said in his own 64-word message posted on the web site.

Critics have denounced Suu Kyi's trial as a charade designed to keep her in detention during an election next year.

US President Barack Obama has joined the calls for her release, condemning her arrest and detention and calling the charges against her "spurious."

Civic and religious rights groups, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), are lobbying for Suu Kyi's release.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.