Well that wasn’t very unexpected, was it. After a lovely piece of political theatre, the Burmese authorities this morning sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months of house arrest – all because an American swam over a mile across a lake to reach her home.Barmy. But then what isn’t in the world of the Burmese military junta?Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League of Democracy, is just one of over 2,000 political prisoners in the country. She has already spent 13 years out of the last 20 under house arrest and in her rare periods of freedom was routinely followed and denied access to colleagues and friends.Naturally, she is a long-standing prisoner of conscience for Amnesty International and we were quick off the mark to condemn the decision. Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Deputy Asia Programme Director, was stalking the corridors of the media studios this morning, making it onto the BBC News Channel, and ITN as well as numerous other outlets overseas.Meanwhile, both the Guardian and the Telegraph online have comment pieces from us.The question now is how will the international community react. Aung San Suu Kyi could have got a five-year sentence. So will the United Nations and the Association of South East Asian Nations buy this “concession” or standby their earlier calls for her release? I fear they will buckle. It’s up to groups like Amnesty to keep reminding them that politically shaving 42 months off her sentence makes little difference. Even if she is released in 2011 – a highly unlikely scenario – she will still miss next year’s elections.
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