May 1, 2008 / 12:25 AM / 11 years ago

Activists tap celebrity power for Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hollywood actors including Will Ferrell and Sylvester Stallone have joined a monthlong video campaign to win support for jailed Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

An activist in Sydney holds a poster at a rally urging the Australian Government to stop providing training assistance to Myanmar's police force November 1, 2007. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

Comedy film star Ferrell’s appearance in a brief online video on Thursday will be the first of 30 daily Web video spots designed to raise the profile of Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The videos depart from the standard humanitarian appeal formula with offbeat and ironic skits to draw the attention to the plight of Suu Kyi and the people of the Southeast Asian country, formerly called Burma.

Ferrell’s video pokes fun at his difficulty pronouncing Suu Kyi’s name, while a skit by Academy Award-nominated “Juno” actress Ellen Page draws a Hitler mustache on a portrait of reclusive Myanmar military junta leader Than Shwe.

“What we’re hoping is that on the 31st day, the United States will know Aung San Suu Kyi, they’ll know the dictator, and they’ll know what’s going on over there,” said Jack Healey, founder of the Human Rights Action Center and former director of Amnesty International USA.

“We’re hoping we’ll have literally a million supporters for the U.S. Campaign for Burma that gives Aung San Suu Kyi a constituency she’s never had before but one she deserves,” Healey told Reuters.

The Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma will run the Web video series on the sites www.burmaitcantwait.org and on the social shopping site www.fanista.com.

“The global campaign for Burma has been small and we want to make that much bigger,” said Jeremy Woodrum, co-founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

Oxford-educated Suu Kyi, 62, has been under house arrest or in prison for more than 12 of the last 18 years. She has been in detention since May 2003.

Her National League for Democracy party won a crushing election victory in 1990, with more than 80 percent of the seats, only to see the junta ignore the result and refuse to cede any power.

Woodrum said Myanmar’s widespread abuses include having recruited more than 70,000 child soldiers and destroying 3,200 ethnic minority villages — twice as many hamlets as have been destroyed in the violent Darfur region of Sudan.

The 30-day Web video campaign will overlap with the May 27 date when the military will announce whether to release Suu Kyi or extend her detention another year. Few expect she will be released.

Also appearing in the videos will be Woody Harrelson, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Biggs, Sarah Silverman, Eva Longoria, Forest Whitaker, Steven Seagal, Eric Szmanda and 20 other artists and entertainers, Woodrum said.

Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Eric Beech

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