China and Russia call for Suu Kyi's release

Oct 5, 2009 (DVB), China has joined with Russia and India in calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including Aung San Suu Kyi, at a UN Human Rights Council session last week.

The Council "expressed grave concern at the recent conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and called for her immediate and unconditional release", a press release said on Friday.

It also "called upon the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to release all political prisoners, immediately and unconditionally, enabling them to participate fully in the 2010 elections".

The 47-member body includes the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The United States joined last month after years of heavy criticism of the Council.

The move may come as some surprise to Burma observers, following years of staunch support for the ruling junta from China, Russia and India.

Burma analyst Larry Jagan said however that it would be wrong to assume that China has changed its stance on human rights in Burma.

"The [UNHRC] works on consensus and China is in a position where it cannot really obstruct a report or resolution on human rights in Burma," he said.

"Essentially we've had 21 years of various human rights bodies passing the same kind of resolution, and nothing has ever really happened."

China in particular has long been seen as a crutch for Burma, and has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions calling for an end to human rights abuses by the Burmese government.

"You need to compare this [UNHRC statement] with the fact that China deliberately made sure that Burma was not going to be discussed at the UN Security Council this month," he said. "I think it's a misreading of the situation to be focusing on China here."

Tension between the two countries has risen in recent months, triggered by clashes between Burmese troops and an ethnic rebel group in northern Burma which forced some 37,000 refugees into China.

The statement came during a week in which the US announced it would directly engage with the ruling junta in Burma. Courts in Burma on Friday also rejected an appeal by Suu Kyi over her house arrest.

Although it was China that proposed increasing dialogue between Burma and the US, Jagan said that Beijing "is suspicious and alarmed at the possibility of increased US involvement in Burma".

Reporting by Francis Wade

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