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2010 National Women's Conference
20 October 2009
Carried as Amended

Conference, hear the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaking about Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I think of my sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi every day. Her picture hangs on the wall of my office, reminding me that, thousands of miles away in Asia, a nation is oppressed. Every day I ask myself: have I done everything I can to try to end the atrocities being committed in Burma? And I pray that world leaders will ask themselves the same question. For if they did, the answer would be “no”, and perhaps their conscience will finally force them to act.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has now been detained for more than 14 years. Every one of those days is a tragedy and a lost opportunity. The whole word, not just the people of Burma, suffers fro this loss. We desperately need the kind of moral and principled leadership that Aung San Suu Kyi would provide. And when you add the more than 2,100 political prisoners who are also in Burma’s jails, and the thousands more jailed in recent decades, the true scale of injustice, but also of lost potential, becomes heartbreakingly clear.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the Pro Democracy movement in Burma, and despite winning the elections in 1990 with an overwhelmingly majority, has been under house arrest or detention for 14 of the past 20 years.

She has had to make great personal sacrifices. Burma’s Generals refused to allow her husband to visit one last time when he was dying of cancer. She has grandchildren she has never even met. Yet her will and determination have stayed strong despite her being kept in detention for so many years.

The continuing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s other political prisoners is a crime and an indictment of an international community that often substitutes the issue of of repeated statements of concern, for effective diplomacy the UN treats the situation in Burma as if it is just a dispute between two sides, and they must mediate to find a middle ground. The reality is that a brutal, criminal and illegal dictatorship is trying, and failing to crush those who want freedom and justice. The international community cannot be neutral in the face of evil.

Twenty years of trying to persuade Burma’s Generals to reform has not secured any improvement. Forty visits by UN envoys have failed to elicit any change. The regime rules with an iron fist and those under its rule have suffered long enough.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters have time and again offered to dialogue with the regime. They offered a path of reconciliation and non violent transition. Even as Aung San Suu Kyi recently stood before the regime’s sham court, facing five years imprisonment she said: “There could be many opportunities for national reconciliation if all parties so wished.”

Burma’s Generals must now face the consequences of their actions. The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is as clear a signal as we could get that there will be no chance of reform and that the regime’s “road map to democracy”, including the call for elections, in 2010, is an obstacle to justice.

A new report from Harvard Law School, Crimes in Burma, has used the UN’s own reports to highlight how Burma’s Generals have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Burma’s Generals are criminals, and must be treated as such. They should be held accountable for abominable atrocities: soldiers rape ethnic women and children, they torture, mutilate and murder at will. In eastern Burma, more than 3,300 ethnic villages have been destroyed. Civilians are deliberately targeted and shot on sight.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma deserve nothing less than our most strenuous efforts to help them secure their freedom. Every day we must ask ourselves: have we done everything that we can?

Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee:

1)To work with Labour Link to ensure the Government continue to support sanctions against the Burmese Junta. Further, that the Government takes all steps possible to ensure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

2)To raise awareness through all UNISON publications of the situation in Burma.

3)Encourage branches and regions to affiliate to the Burma Campaign.