By BosNewsLife Asia Service
RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife)-- Former leaders of Britain’s three main political parties have urged the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make the release of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners, including Christians, his personal priority, BosNewsLife monitored Friday, May 1.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was leader of the Conservative Party from 1997-2001, is among those who signed a petition from Christian rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) 'ChangeforBurma!', a country also known
“In the wake of the shocking prison sentences imposed on activists in Burma, and the regime’s continuing crimes against humanity, it is vital that we do everything in our power to summon up the will of the international community to influence the junta in
Burma and seek the release of all political prisoners,” he added in published remarks.
Neil Kinnock, Labour Party leader from 1983-92 and David Steel, Liberal Party leader from 1976-88, both now in the House of Lords, also added their support. Lord Kinnock said: “Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and all political prisoners in jail today, are detained simply for speaking about freedom. These courageous people deserve our support. We must use our liberty to promote theirs.”
The Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, is another signatory to the petition. Mitchell became the first elected British politician in many years to visit Rangoon in 2007, where he met former political prisoners. He also visited internally
displaced peoples inside Karen State, with CSW investigators, CSW explained.
CSW’s campaign is part of an international coalition led by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and the Forum for Democracy in Burma.
The petition has drawn over 250,000 signatories so far, with support from prominent figures such as Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, a campaigner for an international landmine treaty, CSW told BosNewsLife. “Many of us struggling for peace around the world can use our freedom to express our views. But the people of Burma risk prison to do this," Williams said in a statement distributed by CSW. "We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with those
democracy activists who have been locked up in the dark. We must show them they have not been forgotten.”
CSW’s East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said his group is pleased with the support. "It shows just how seriously the issue is taken, and it should send a message to the regime in Burma that their gross abuse of prisoners of conscience has not gone unnoticed by the world," Rogers said. "We will not stay silent, and will continue to campaign until all political prisoners in Burma, including democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are free.”
Burma's government has denied human rights abuses, calling such claims part of Western propaganda.