Women peace laureates appeal for Myanmar action

( Reuters ) - Six female Nobel Peace laureates called on the world to keep up pressure on Myanmar's military junta to restore liberty and democracy in the country.

The seventh living female Peace Prize winner -- Aung San Suu Kyi -- is in detention in Myanmar, where she has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years in prison or under house arrest.

The call comes weeks after the junta's bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.

"Since Burmese monks courageously took to the streets in September to call for democracy, the Burmese regime has enforced a vicious crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and democratic opposition leaders," the six wrote in a letter in Wednesday's edition of the Guardian newspaper, using the country's former name.

"The Burmese regime must not be allowed to continue in its perpetration of gross violations of human rights. The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible manifestation of the regime's brutality but it is only the tip of the iceberg."

The letter was signed by Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. It said it was supported by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

"Sixty-two years ago, the UN was established to enable governments of the world to respond to grave crises of this kind. It must now do more to live up to its mandate and take decisive action to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow prisoners of conscience," they wrote.

In its 100 year history, 12 women have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Only seven are still alive. Suu Kyi won the prize in 1991.

Human rights group Amnesty International also renewed its appeals for Suu Kyi's unconditional release.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an iconic symbol of Myanmar's political resistance -- her unconditional release would be a significant step forward," said AI Secretary General Irene Khan.

Campaigners wearing Suu Kyi masks are expected to gather outside the Chinese embassy in London at noon on Wednesday as part of worldwide protests to mark the 12 years of her detention.

China, along with India, is deemed to have an influence on Myanmar's military junta.

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