August 23, 2007

Washington, DC -- Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today called for the immediate release of leading Burmese human rights activist Min Ko Naing and more than a dozen people who had been dragged from their homes and arrested after a peaceful protest.

"Yet again, Burma's military thugs are fattening their own pockets by using gangster tactics to grind the Burmese people into deeper despair," Lantos said. "Justice demands taking a stand against Burma's rulers, who prove time and again they are little more than venal, vicious crooks. The pioneering protesters took to the streets fully aware that they would likely face arrest, torture, and potentially death. They must be released immediately."

Hundreds of people turned out to demonstrate against the military government of Burma, a highly unusual event under this oppressive regime which was sparked by a sudden, government-imposed doubling of diesel and gasoline prices. This move sent the general population of Burma staggering further into poverty and desolation and contrasts dramatically with the upsurge of wealth the regime receives from its natural gas exports.

Lantos singled out India and China as countries that have failed to join the international community to pressure Burma to improve its human rights situation. "India and China could play leading roles in improving the dreadful human rights environment in Burma, but instead they callously ignore the abuses," he said. "They do nothing to stop the situation in Burma continue to deteriorate and become more unstable."

Lantos called on China to support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's effort to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma and to back plans for a tripartite national reconciliation dialogue between the regime, Nobel Prize recipient Aung San Suu Ki, and Burma's ethnic nationalities.

In an attempt to prevent even bigger demonstrations that were planned for today and tomorrow, the Burmese regime conducted a midnight raid and arrested Min Ko Naing, the most prominent human rights leader in Burma behind Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and more than 20 other prominent Burmese human rights activists.

“All those arrested have previously been imprisoned by Burma’s military regime and had been tortured during their incarcerations," noted Lantos, the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. "I am gravely concerned about the safety of these courageous human rights activists and call for their immediate release.”