Free Suu Kyi

Free Suu Kyi


At a time when the international community was hoping that Myanmar’s military rulers would end the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the junta has toughened its posture towards her. They propose to charge her for the visit of an American citizen to her lakeside villa last week where she has been detained for the last six years. Suu Kyi is being moved out of her home to a prison in Insein near Yangon. Since 1991, the leader of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement has been held in some form of detention for a total of 13 years. For most of those years, Suu Kyi has been held virtually
incommunicado, with her telephone line cut, her mail intercepted and visitors restricted. Over the past week, international appeals for her release have grown. She has been ailing and her detention is due to end at the end of this month. The international community was hoping that the junta would refrain from extending her detention. Such hopes have been dashed now.

Myanmar’s military rulers propose to hold general elections next year under a Constitution that legitimises the military’s domination of the country’s politics. The last time they held elections was in 1990, when the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party Suu Kyi heads, won a landslide victory. The military however refused to hand over power to the NLD, choosing instead to jail thousands of NLD members and crushing any signs of pro-democracy activism. The NLD has indicated that it will consider participating in elections next year if the junta meets some of its demands including the release of Suu Kyi.

 Western countries led by the US have hitherto adopted a policy of sanctions against Myanmar. But there are signs that they are willing to review this policy. The junta’s opening up to international aid agencies, albeit in a small way, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar had raised hopes of a new openness in its thinking. It did seem that Myanmar’s relations with the world were poised to change. This change will not happen if the junta cracks down on Suu Kyi and the pro-democracy activists. Suu Kyi cannot be held responsible for the unsolicited visit of the American citizen and punished for this. She must be set free. India has some influence over the generals. It should engage in quiet diplomacy to secure Suu Kyi’s release.

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