Adjournment Debate. - Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Thank you for the opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Aung San Suu Kyi is 45 years old and the daughter of a hero of the Burmese independence struggle against British colonial rule and Japanese occupation. Her father was assassinated in 1947. She married Michael Aris, a British academic, and has two sons.

She returned to Burma — now called the Union of Myanmar — to nurse her dying mother and while she was there became involved in political affairs when the man who had ruled Burma from 1962 announced he was resigning and that a referendum would be held to decide on the political future of the country. However, his party refused to agree to a referendum and political turmoil ensued.

Later that year the army staged a coup but they also promised free elections. Suu Kyi formed a political party with some of her supporters and called it The National League for Democracy — NLD. It was a non-violent organisation with strong proposals on human rights.

On 20 July 1989 Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. Her husband tried to visit his wife and two sons but was allowed to do so only under the same terms of house arrest as she was under. He returned to England to bring his two sons back to school and that was the last time she was allowed to see her sons whose Burmese passports have been declared invalid. This was an obvious ploy to get her to leave the country also. He husband was allowed to visit her for two weeks for Christmas 1989 and that is the last time he saw her.

On 27 May 1990 the election took place and the National League for Democracy won 392 of the 485 seats contested or over 80 per cent of the vote, this despite the fact that she had not been able to canvass and was held under house arrest for ten months before the election.

The last letter her family had from her was in July of last year and every attempt to regain contact has failed. It is understood that she has recently been on hunger strike and that she is ill but there is no solid information about this.

Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year and has been refused permission to collect it. The UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur, Mr. Yokota, was in Burma in September of this year and asked to be allowed to visit her. His request was refused.

A lengthy letter to us from the Ambassador for the Union of Myanmar to Germany said in effect that they are committed to an orderly transfer to democracy, that they resent "excessively emotional and one-sided" foreign interference in their internal affairs, that they believe human rights to be of fundamental importance "provided it is distinct from external political ambitions and if it is not used as a means to champion the sectarian interests of certain groups or individuals within a country". In my view he is clearly using the fact that she married an Englishman and her sons are half English as a weapon against her. He claims that there are no political prisoners in Myanmar, that a new government cannot be installed before a new constitution is agreed and that terrorist groups are active necessitating such emergency legislation as exists.

The Workers' Party asks the Irish Government to call on the Government of Burma/Myanmar to release the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest; to release all other non-violent political activists and dissidents at present under detention and to restore civil and political liberties. We also call on the Government of Burma/ Myanmar to allow immediate access to Aung San Suu Kyi by a doctor and an international humanitarian organisation, such as the Red Cross or Amnesty International.

It is important that the Irish Government make direct representations and not simply incorporate their representations under EC representations or, indeed, United Nations representations.

I should like to say how grateful I am to Deputy De Rossa for giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter. I join him in his condemnation of the Burmese authorities' refusal to allow Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to travel to Oslo to receive the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

The award focused once again international attention on the appalling situation in Burma. In welcoming the award, the Government, in common with our European Community partners, expressed the hope that it would lead the Burmese military regime finally to recognise the isolation it has brought upon its country and the aversion felt by the international community at the continued incommunicado detention of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

We deplore the fact that all access to the outside world is denied her, including contact with her political supporters, with her family and with the media, and that all requests by foreign visitors as well as by European Community representatives in Rangoon to be allowed to see her have been refused by the military regime.

It is profoundly disturbing that, since the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Burmese authorities have down played the award and have ensured that, in addition to being unable to travel to collect the prize, she has not been permitted to receive messages of congratulations personally from the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee and from foreign Governments. It has been put to her by the authorities that she is free to leave Burma and go into exile. Were she to accept this condition, she would thereby forfeit her right to return to Burma. She has, quite justifiably, rejected this "offer" or, as Deputy De Rossa said the "ploy". Such a condition can only be regarded as an infringement of the internationally recognised right of an individual to leave and return to his or her own country — as enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There have been various reports to the effect that the Burmese authorities have prevented attempts in recent weeks by members of the international community to see her and to reassure themselves as to her personal safety and wellbeing. Chief among these was the refusal of a visa to the Norwegian Ambassador resident in Singapore to travel to Burma to convey the official announcement of the award to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. In addition, a United Nations Human Rights Commission team which was in Rangoon at the beginning of November was refused permission to contact her. In response, and as a mark of his personal concern, the UN Secretary-General issued an appeal on 6 November that she be freed from house arrest and that her family be allowed to visit her.

There have also been reports, as noted by Deputy De Rossa, that she is on hunger strike and that her physical condition has deteriorated as a consequence. Given the circumstances of incommunicado detention under which she is held, it is impossible in this, as in other respects, to obtain reliable information. Like others in this House, I find these reports extremely disturbing and my concerns are not relieved by the assurances of the military regime — unsupported by independent sources — that she is in good health.

The situation in Burma, both in relation to human rights abuses and the failure of the military junta to respect the results of the May 1990 elections, continues to be a matter of the gravest concern to the Government.

Together with our partners in the Community, and on a number of occasions over the past year, we have expressed our deep concern at the continuing failure of the Burmese military authorities to respect the democratically expressed wish of the Burmese people. In addition, the situation in Burma has led the Community and its member states to suspend non-humanitarian development aid programmes and reduce economic and trade relations to a minimum.

At the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in February, the Twelve expressed their grave concern at the deterioration in the human rights situation in Burma and noted the inclusion of Burma in a report on torture compiled by the Commission's Special Rapporteur. At the same time, an urgent appeal was made by the Twelve to the Burmese rulers to transfer power without delay to the victors in the 1990 elections.

The Twelve's continuing concern has been reflected in further statements issued in May and July and, again most recently, in the statements delivered by the Presidency on behalf of the Twelve at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 September.

In their May statement, the Community and its member states condemned the numerous shortcomings in respect of internationally accepted rules of conduct and of human rights, the continuing harassment, detention and house arrest of opposition leaders, prominent among whom is Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, and the refusal to free political prisoners.

Appalled that the Burmese authorities continue to spend large amounts of their country's meagre resources on arms, the Twelve announced on 29 July their decision to refuse the sale of any military equipment from Community countries to Burma. They called on the rest of the international community to show similar restraint and desist from all such sales.

In their statement to the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Community and its member states once again called on the Burmese regime to respect the mandate laid down by the Burmese people in May 1990 and to introduce a democratic multi-party system. The Community indicated its willingness to re-establish constructive relations with Burma, including a resumption of development assistance programmes, once Burma fulfils its obligations in the field of human rights and democracy.

Both we and our partners in the Community continue to take a grave view of the situation in Burma, both as regards the personal case of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and the deplorable human rights situation in general. We are examining with our Community partners and with others on how best, including at the United Nations, to put further pressure on the military regime to release her and all other political prisoners and to hand over power to those democratically elected in the May 1990 elections. I can assure Deputy De Rossa that his comments will be taken into account by the Government.