Aung San Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday

I was pleased to be able to speak at the Auckland celebration of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday. It was one of many taking place around the world.

Ang San Suu Kyi has now been under arrest for most of the past 20 years, and has been excluded from participating in the forthcoming elections. Elections without Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party will be pretty meaningless.

The ruling junta is pretty entrenched, which puts an extra responsibility for the international community to try to shift it, using sticks as well as carrots.

However, New Zealand has the weakest sanctions on Burma of any Western government, only prohibiting leading junta members from taking holidays here. If they come on political business they are let in, as were to top people, Nay Win, Wai Lwin Than and Winn Pe last March – for an

Asian Regional Forum on maritime security


Lower ranked members of the regime are actually trained here, at

the New Zealand taxpayers expense

. Three are currently in an English language course based in Wellington.

A good birthday present from Aung San Suu Kyi would be a pledge by New Zealand to up the ante, perhaps by announcing a freeze on the assets held by the regime in New Zealand, or discouraging investments in Burma that help the regime.