19 June 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday

photo by AFP via ABC

The last birthday I mentioned was Nelson Mandela's 90th in 2008. In keeping with the theme of mentioning the birthdays of significant people, today was Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday, celebrated under continuing house arrest. She was leader of a political party that was democratically elected 20 years ago as the majority, chosen by the Burmese people to form government. They never did and Daw Aung was not allowed to be prime minister.

US President Obama issued the following statement yesterday
I wish to convey my best wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate, on the occasion of her 65th birthday on June 19. Her determination, courage, and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice. I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens. Towards this end, I encourage all stakeholders in Burma to engage in genuine dialogue towards national reconciliation, a vital step to set Burma on a more positive course for the future.
Of course President Obama's use of the name Burma is consistent with practice by the US State Department.
The Union of Burma is ruled by a military regime called the "State Peace and Development Council" (SPDC). The SPDC changed the name of the country to "Myanmar," but some members of the democratic opposition and other political activists do not recognize the name change and continue to use the name "Burma." Out of support for the democratic opposition, the U.S. Government likewise uses "Burma."
This is also the practice by other like-minded countries including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

The British Foreign Minister (and junior portfolio ministers) also made a statement

As international relations is the domain of governments, it is quite interesting that some media outlets continue to use the name "Myanmar" despite government practice - including Reuters, CNN, AFP and Associated Press.

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