Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:37:00 06/06/2009
Filed Under: Human Rights, Justice & Rights, Foreign affairs & international relations
The recent arrest and detention of Burma’s democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi poses a monumental challenge to democracy.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, is being tried on charges that she violated the terms of her six-year house arrest. The charges came with only two weeks to go before the expiration of the term of her house arrest.
She was supposed to be freed on May 27, but the junta found another reason to extend her detention period when an American war veteran spent a night at the waterfront villa where Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years.
Unelected and unwanted by their own people, the ruling generals of Burma are now becoming more and more irrational and paranoid. Instead of forging a sincere dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD), they have chosen to marginalize the opposition and its leader, Suu Kyi, by fabricating charges against her.
Since the junta took power in 1962, there has been a clear absence of the rule of law in Burma. This has resulted in massive human rights violations, which include systematic rape, forced labor, killings of media practitioners and human rights defenders, and torture of political prisoners, whose number has now reached 2,100, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma. When Burma was adopted by the ASEAN in 1997, there was hope that somehow it would democratize and follow certain democratic standards and norms. That expectation failed to materialize and ASEAN cannot compel its spoiled member to initiate tangible democratic reforms. Despite international criticisms, the junta continues to violate all the borders of decency just to maintain its grasp on power.
Torture of political prisoners and rape of women happen almost daily in Burma. In the Insein prison, where Suu Kyi is undergoing her current trial, thousands of people are murmuring for justice.
As the protest intensifies against the trial of Suu Kyi, the military regime remains unwilling to lend an ear. It has rejected foreign criticisms as mere interference from abroad. Speaking at a meeting of European Union and South East Asian ministers in Cambodia, Burma’s deputy foreign minister insisted that the trial was not a human rights issue.
Suu Kyi is not guilty of any crime. A staunch advocate of non-violent struggle, she has long earned the respect of Burma’s people and the world’s admiration for her various contributions to the advancement of human rights. The junta, on the other hand, after years in power, has not earned anything except global anger.
Knowing Burma’s tyrannical regime, it is not hard to predict the verdict of the trial. But ASEAN and the United Nations should not wait any second longer to extend help to free all of Burma’s political prisoners.
Burma is suffering and Suu Kyi is just one of the many living symbols of the noble cause to free Burma once and for all. If somebody must be prosecuted, it is the junta generals!
—EGOY N. BANS,
Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils),
15 Door 15 Casal Bldg.,
Anonas Road, Quezon City