May 14, 2009

Senior General Than Shwe

Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defense
Union of Myanmar

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the arrest of writer and political leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to our information, leader of the National League for Democracy, writer, and Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was taken into custody from her home in Yangon on the morning of May 14, 2009. She was immediately transported to Insein Prison along with two members of her household staff for allegedly violating the conditions of her house arrest after an American citizen reportedly swam across the lake uninvited and stayed in her home. The government claims that this occurrence violates a ban that prohibits her from meeting with anyone without prior permission. She is due to stand trial on May 18, 2009. If convicted, she could face up to five years’ imprisonment.

The daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became the head of the National League for Democracy in 1988, leading the party to a landslide electoral victory in 1991. The victory was never recognized by Myanmar’s military regime. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 18 years in detention. She was held under de facto house arrest from July 1989 to July 1995, and again from September 2000 to May 2002 until she was released during confidential talks brokered by the United Nations between the State Peace and Development Council and the National League for Democracy. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi was again taken into “protective custody” after violent clashes broke out between her supporters and those of the government.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1991 for her political work in Myanmar and has authored several books, including Freedom From Fear (1991), Letters from Burma (1997), and The Voice of Hope (1997). She was recently treated for dehydration and low blood pressure. Although her condition is said to have improved, concerns for her well-being are now mounting.

PEN American Center is deeply alarmed by the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call upon the State Peace and Development Council to demonstrate its commitment to a political dialogue in Myanmar by immediately and unconditionally securing her release, as well as the release of all those detained for the peaceful expression of their views.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.

Hannah Pakula           
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Program

CC: His Excellency U Myint Lwin
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar to the United States
2300 S St. NW
Washington, DC 20008

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