The European Union has joined other nations in protesting against the prolonged house arrest of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with French president Nicolas Sarkozy calling on Brussels to put forward new sanctions.
Sixty four-year old Nobel peace prize laureate Suu Kyi was sentenced to an additional 18 months house arrest by a court in Rangoon on Tuesday (11 August). She was convicted of violating security laws by allowing a US national into her lakeside home after he swam there.
The pro-democracy activist and critic of the Burmese junta – which has ruled the country, officially known as the Union of Myanmar, since 1962 – has already spent 14 years under house arrest. Her previous period of forced stay at home expired in late May and the extension means she will be unable to take part in the next elections, due in May 2010.
Tuesday´s verdict sparked an angry reaction from various international leaders, but Burma´s key trading partners China and India made no public comment.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi, saying: "Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt."
Several European leaders also expressed their disapproval.
UK prime minister Gordon Brown said he was "saddened and angry" by the ruling "following a sham trial," adding that the verdict was "a purely political sentence designed to prevent her [Suu Kyi] from taking part in the regime´s planned elections next year."
"I have always made clear that the United Kingdom would respond positively to any signs of progress on democratic reform in Burma. But with the generals explicitly rejecting that course today, the international community must take action," he said in a statement.
In a similar tone, French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged the EU to "respond quickly by adopting new sanctions against the Burmese regime, which must in particular target the resources that they directly profit from, in the wood and ruby sectors."
French energy firm Total also has a major natural gas investment in the country.
Speaking for the European Union in the role of the presidency state, Sweden´s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said: "The EU stands united in the condemnation of this unlawful decision. We call on the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi by the military regime."
"We are preparing sanctions against Burma. These sanctions include measures such as trade restrictions against certain state owned companies and prohibition of entry into the EU for the four key individuals responsible for the decision."Press Articles