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Myanmar government criticized over arrest of democracy advocate

[JURIST] The government of Myanmar [JURIST news archive] received widespread international criticism after jailing democracy advocate and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday for violating the terms of her house arrest. Myanmar's military junta arrested Suu Kyi after a US man swam across a lake [NYT report] to the compound in which she was confined and spent at least one night on the property. Suu Kyi's lawyer says Suu Kyi asked the man to leave and considered alerting the guards to his presence, but took pity on him because he was suffering from exhaustion. The Czech Presidency of the EU [official website] on behalf of the EU urged Myanmar to release [statement] Suu Kyi immediately. US State Department [official website] spokesperson Ian Kelly also said Suu Kyi should be released immediately [transcript] during the daily press briefing. Many international observers noted that Suu Kyi's arrest came only two weeks before her house arrest was supposed to end and suggested that Suu Kyi's arrest was an attempt to keep her out of elections scheduled for next year. Suu Kyi's trial is scheduled to begin Monday. If she is found guilty, Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison.

In March, the UN Human Rights Counsel (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution [JURIST report] denouncing Myanmar for human rights abuses and calling on the military junta to desist from politically motivated arrests and release nearly 2,100 political prisoners. This came a week after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] said [press release and opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi violates Myanmar's 1975 State Protection Law [text] and pressed for her immediate release. In February, the military government of Myanmar granted amnesty to 23 political detainees and more than 6,300 other prisoners, said Thailand-based human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) [advocacy website]. These grants were in response to increasing international pressure on the military junta to end its persecution of political dissidents. In January, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text, PDF; JURIST report] to the government, urging it to cease targeting its Rohingya Muslim minority [BBC profile]. In December, the UN General Assembly [official website] adopted a resolution [press release; JURIST report] denouncing the nation's alleged human rights violations. In June, the UNHRC criticized the government of Myanmar [JURIST report] for its continued human rights abuses and refusal to cooperate with humanitarian groups.

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