Tue 30 Nov 2004
Filed under: News,Opinion
Aung San Suu Kyi, the face of Burma’s democratic opposition, has spent a total of nine years, one month and seven days in detention since her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a 1990 election in a landslide
victory that has been ignored by the country’s military rulers ever since. News that her house arrest has again been extended under the Orwellian-sounding “Law Safeguarding the State from the Danger of Subversive Elements” comes as grim if predictable confirmation that hopes of voluntary change were always slim.
Ms Suu Kyi, a byword for dignity and courage in adversity, may be a global icon and Nobel peace prize laureate, but that has not helped her escape effective imprisonment and having her phone cut off and visitors to her Rangoon home monitored. Her latest spell in detention began last year
after an attack by government supporters on an NLD convoy near Mandalay. The timing of the new house arrest order seems calculated to embarrass Burma’s neighbours in the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), who were meeting for a summit in neighbouring Laos yesterday. It also
makes a mockery of last year’s so-called “roadmap to democracy”, already dismissed by western governments as a sham. Hopes for progress when the previous prime minister and his sinister National Intelligence Bureau were purged and the release of thousands of prisoners announced were dashed when these turned out to include only a handful of the country’s 1,400 political detainees. Burma, due to take over Asean’s rotating chair in 2006, is a source of growing embarrassment for the regional organisation since its policy of polite engagement has manifestly failed. Hand-wringing, as the Burma Action Group warned, “has little effect on a
It is now time for the UN security council to face Chinese pressure and hold a fully fledged debate on an appropriate response by the international community. If that happens, it must look at punitive action, a ban on new investment and the exports that provide this brutal regime with most of its income.