Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, voicing the government call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in Myanmar, joins the international clamor for the Nobel peace laureate’s freedom led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

President Gloria Arroyo had earlier talked with Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein when they met at the aborted 14th ASEAN Summit in Pataya, Thailand early this month on the possibility of granting Suu Kyi freedom after years under house arrest.

The ASEAN summit was cancelled when protesters against Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva turned berserk and attacked government buildings, including the conference venue.

Lifting Suu Kyi’s house arrest, the President told the Prime Minister, could go a long way towards national reconciliation. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 years and is scheduled for release next month.

The fear is that her release could be postponed anew under dubious pretext or claims. As is already known the Burmese junta has repeatedly extended her detention. The continued detention of the pro-democracy leader has been a vexed point in Myanmar’s relations with its ASEAN members who are, however, helpless because of the non-interference provision in the organization’s charter in the internal affairs of its members.

It is recalled that President Arroyo had consistently imposed the link between the “fate of ASEAN Charter to the democratization of Burma,” and precisely, the release of activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

In his statement, Secretary Romulo said, “it is time for Myanmar to carry out its own ‘Road map for Democracy’ that facilitates the release of political detainees, including Suu Kyi.”

As has been observed – with exasperation, no doubt — that what is happening in Burma is inconsistent with the ASEAN ‘s stated purpose as enunciated in its charter which is to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Surely, the brazen consequences of Myanmar’s undoing and the organization’s non-interference clause in its charter are sore spots that make ASEAN a less vigorous regional body that it is supposed or ought to be.

It is for this that many observers say the ASEAN Charter is a disappointment.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 as a pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma. The following year she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship.

In the 1990, general elections, while in prison, her party won and would have catapulted her to the position of Prime Minister but the military junta prevented her from assuming the position.

She is widely known as “Prisoner of Conscience.”

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