International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Political Prisoner
Aung San Suu Kyi turns 64:
we all still need her, and must do more.
On 19th June, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will turn 64 years old. Instead
of being amongst loved ones and the millions of people in Burma
who revere her for standing up for human and civil rights, she is
There is a genuine possibility that in just a few days, Daw Suu
Kyi may be sentenced to five years imprisonment in Insein Prison.
the cruel agony of further trial delays may be extended.
We all want to be
part of a global visitors line, wish her happy birthday and see
her freed. The groundswell demanding her release matches that given
to Nelson Mandela, and rightly so, for Daw Suu Kyi is the worlds
greatest female leader.
But thanks to the paranoid leader of the Burmese military junta, Senior
General Than Shwe, Daw Suu Kyi may never get to see the light of day
Daw Suu Kyis trial has been delayed once more. The junta are using
every trick in the book to discredit her. They run the courts, appoint
the judges and write the laws, and when all else fails, the regime resorts
to ridiculous propaganda.
The Burmese Embassy in Hong Kong has declared that, John William Yettaw,
the American accused of breaking into Daw Suu Kyis compound is
Daw Suu Kyis "boyfriend" and intended on staying over
at her residence. Maybe the junta were scared that a real life Rambo
was on the loose, for their real intention is to keep her out of the
limelight and break up the National League for Democracys bid
for worldwide support.
Senior General Than Shwe's dream will be complete when the military
junta fixes the 2010 polls to guarantee victory. For the despotic regime,
this will erase the bitter memories of 1990, when the National League
for Democracy won 392 out of 452 seats. Only then will the issue of
redemption be addressed. For us, it will be another failure to help
the innocent people of Burma.
The proposed election set for 2010 is a circus act. Senior General Than
Shwe is the ringmaster armed with whips and any other instruments of
pain at his disposal. More than 50 million civilians are attempting
to maintain their balance on a tightrope. The military regime is swaying
both ends of a rapidly fraying rope, thus controlling the destiny and
force in which the nation and people may crash. The concerned international
community represent the crowd watching in horror from the stands, helpless
at any disaster unfolding.
The safety net that may well prevent yet another massacre, in the form
of intervention from China and Indias public condemnation, has
not been cast.
And somewhere in there, Australia has also failed to demonstrate any
leadership. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been far too quiet.
For years, previous governments on both sides of the political spectrum
have been asking for a more inclusive role in Southeast Asia. Prime
Minister Rudd now has the chance to showcase his regional leadership
capabilities by succeeding where ASEAN and individual nations have failed.
But rather than show genuine leadership and criticising General Than
Shwe for his regime's treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, the thousands of
political prisoners in jail and millions of civilians living in fear
of their lives, Prime Minister Rudd is adopting a WWJD, or What Would
John (Howard) Do, approach.
The previous Prime Minister would have found solace in opting for the
safer moral high ground in sticking to domestic issues that would have
earned political points. Prime Minister Rudd, it seems, is no different.
The Prime Minister likes using punchy catchphrases that represent the
publics feelings. Having already referred to people smugglers
as "scum of the earth" and telling the ABC networks
Chasers War On Everything team to "hang their heads in shame",
it is disappointing to see that his absence of a brutally honest statement
depicts a lack of political leverage and points scoring in naming Senior
General Than Shwe exactly what he is; a bloodthirsty natural born killer.
Perhaps it is Prime Minister Rudd that needs to hang his head in shame
for not being strong enough when it really counts by referring to the
military leadership as war criminals. In the form of survivor testimony
about the tactics used by the regime, there is no shortage of proof
that a genocide that we cannot afford to keep silent about is taking
place as we speak.
What does the Prime Minister have to lose in stating the obvious? He
may be referred to as an external destructive element by the regime-controlled
media, but anybody disagreeing with the junta will expect that. Or does
he not want to rile China, Burmas ally and neighbours to the north?
Agreeing to keep quiet is tantamount and not meddle with internal affairs
is a convenient way to threaten all opponents to shut up.
Any nation that publicly calls for free and fair elections in Burma
in 2010 is blindly endorsing an illegitimate plan that should never
be condoned in the first place. These proposed elections are born out
of a fraudulent constitutional referendum held in May 2008, immediately
after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma.
The referendum promising democratic elections gained 92 per cent approval
without a single question being raised as to their validity, and enshrined
a requirement of 25 per cent of all parliamentary seats being reserved
for the military. Under Burmas constitution, a minimum of 75 per
cent is required to make any changes to the countrys laws.
What originally commenced as a roar of disapproval over the denial of
natural justice to Daw Suu Kyi and indeed the entire civilian population
of Burma has now ground to a halt. Now the dissenting voices amount
to a regional whisper and are in danger of following the ineffective
road taken by Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Envoy for Burma representing
the United Nations.
The latest diplomatic failure is from Singapore's Senior Minister, Goh
Having spent four days inside Burma, Tong indicated that the junta would
best serve the national interests by using a "cautious but practical
approach". He even appeared to defend Senior General Than Shwes
handling of the process by declaring that Shwe could not be blamed for
the lack of process because he inherited a military dictatorship that
was installed back in 1962.
Goh Chok Tongs words present the overtures that the military junta
likes to hear. In saying that no country should get involved in domestic
affairs, this gives the clearest indication yet that no foreign state
wishes to have blood on their hands by challenging Burma.
No doubt the military regime leaders have been keeping a close eye on
developments in Iran. Silently they will already be vowing that no such
scenes will be tolerated on the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and every
other city and town in Burma. Their youth network, the Union and Solidarity
Development Association (or USDA, of which Senior General Than Shwe
is the main patron) has already been active in keeping Aung San Suu
Kyis supporters away from her trial, and will be undoubtedly be
mobilised for the 2010 election. The juntas network has rightly
been compared to the Hitler Youth movement.
The growing demand for change, while showing similarities to Burmas
ill-fated 1988 and 2007 protests, is unlikely to produce the same catastrophic
results in which more than 3,000 people were slaughtered by the junta
collectively. Recent accusations of electoral fraud and protests in
Tehran by supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi have seen
mass crowds take to the streets but the foreign media have had a chance
to get into Iran to report on the dissent and in some cases, speak to
the people. This is something Burmas junta-controlled media would
never let happen.
If the junta's responses brutal responses to the last two uprisings
are a guide, we will all be clowns on a unicycle juggling grenades.
Before abandoning Burmas civilians in their darkest hours, it
is time to re-visit Martin Niemoller's famous words.
"...Then they came for me, and by that time nobody was left to
We all want Daw Suu Kyi to have her cake and eat it too. Being the graceful
and eloquent woman that she is, Daw Suu Kyi would ensure that the people
in Burma are all fed first.
Only Daw Suu Kyi can unite a people terrified by decades of war and
trauma. The consequences of the military regime blowing out the candles
first will result in Burma and the international being plunged into
darkness before the gunshots ring out, making a mockery of the promise
For Daw Aung San Suu Kyis birthday present, let us keep the candles
of hope burning brightly and tell Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, opposition
leader Malcolm Turnbull and all parliamentary representatives in Australia
in a clear unified voice that she must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Burmas only true hope for a civilian
democracy to bloom. The price of failure is simply too gruesome to imagine.
Aung San Suu Kyi Into a Cambodian Classroom
Raising awareness of the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi among students
through music in rural Cambodia leaves a song in their heart.
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