Burmese women in Thailand are making their voices heard for the sake of peace in Burma to mark democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday today.
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Suu Kyi has spent 14 years altogether as a political prisoner under house arrest in Rangoon.
"The only way there can be peace in Burma is through national reconciliation and the democratic system. We need dialogue and a review of the 2008 constitution. But there will be no national reconciliation in Burma as long as there are political prisoners," Lae Lae Nwe said at a book launch for "Burma Women's Voices for Peace", hosted by publisher Altsean-Burma at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.
The book is being published to celebrate Suu Kyi's birthday, which has also been named "Women of Burma Day".
Lae Lae Nwe is a former political prisoner. She fled to the Thai-Burmese border after serving four years in Rangoon's Insein Prison and contributed her prison experiences to the book, which is a collection of stories and poems written by Burmese women about their experiences as refugees, human-rights activists, migrant workers and political prisoners.
"The regime has tried to make political prisoners suffer," she said.
Lway Aye Nang of the Women's League of Burma has urged the international community not to endorse this year's election, because 2,157 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and 177 other women, are being held throughout the country in barbaric conditions.
"Democratic progress in Burma requires the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a vital initial benchmark," she said, adding that the military regime was now seeking to formalise its domination by basing this year's election on the 2008 constitution.
"A sham democratic process aims to further strengthen military power and allow military immunity on human-rights violations constitutionally while the people of Burma, inside and in exile, continue to strive for democracy and human rights persistently," Lway Aye Nang said.
The Women's League of Burma's representative also criticised the Burmese junta's constitution, saying it reinforced stereotyped women as primarily mothers and needing protection.
"The constitution provides a permanent role for the military in the country's political administration, guaranteeing 25 per cent of the seats of both houses of parliament will be held by military personnel," she said, adding that women were practically excluded from military service in Burma.
The only women's groups cooperating with Burma's national programme are government-backed non-governmental organisations, including the Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation, the Myanmar Women's Entrepreneurs Association and the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association.
However, the leadership of all of these is dominated by the wives of the junta leaders. They are often corrupt and exploit their positions for personal gain.