Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive] called Monday on the international community to help improve workers' rights [transcript], during an address to the International Labor Organization (ILO) [official website] at its annual conference. She said that the creation of the people's network [AP report] in Myanmar to address social justice and humanitarian rights shows that the desire of the people of Myanmar to live in a society where these rights are secured. She spoke via video conference as she refuses to leave the country for fear she will not be able to return.
Myanmar underwent a transfer of power [BBC report] from a military regime to a civil system after holding its first elections in 20 years. But many critics argue the new regime is a sham since a party close to the military regime won with 80 percent of the vote.
Last month, Myanmar began releasing as many as 15,000 prisoners as part of an amnesty program after a visit by the UN secretary-general's envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar [official profile], who called on the country to release its political prisoners. But few of the prisoners being released by the government are political prisoners. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called the move a "pathetic response" to calls from the international community. Last December, a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] expert Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile; JURIST news archive], a UN Special Rapporteur, urged Myanmar's military government [JURIST report] to release 2,202 political prisoners. Quintana called for the release of the "prisoners of conscience," many of whom, he says, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy. Last November, Myanmar's government released Suu Kyi, ending her almost eight years under house arrest. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] hailed her release and encouraged the country to release all political prisoners [press release]. Suu Kyi's release came days after the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] challenging the conditions of her house arrest.