Monday, June 21, 2010

DAW Aung San Suu Kyi- Set that lady free

DAW Aung San Suu Kyi shouldn't be released from house imprisonment just because she turned 65 on Saturday, nor because of the 15 years she has spent incarcerated. She should be released for one reason alone: her National League for Democracy won 82 per cent of that country's parliamentary seats in a 1990 general election deemed free and fair not just in its conduct but in its outcome, and she should never have been imprisoned in the first place. On the contrary, she should have had her chance to run that country.

The principled "non-interference" of Myanmar's neighbours has worn down into a threadbare embarrassment. The notion of "constructive engagement", too, has proven desperately counter-productive; if there's one skill Myanmar's generals have developed since jailing Suu Kyi, it's in the dark arts of political self-interest. Efforts to "engage" with Myanmar serve most the military elite. The people remain free only to fend as best they can in a wretched economic, social and political environment -- even after devastating natural calamities such as last year's Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 130,000 people.

But the NLD has hardly withered away in the two decades since it stepped up to usher that country into a more democratic, progressive and hopeful future. Instead, it has become primus inter pares among oppositionist groups in that country and a focus of support among their global diaspora, in a stalemate that consigns the ruling military elite into ever more of a surreal limbo in its purpose-built capital of Naypyidaw. With the 2007 "Saffron Rebellion" of Buddhist monks having doubled the number of political prisoners to well over 2,000, the generals in charge increasingly dwell in a fantasy of near-North Korean proportions.

Yet, another general election is due this year. As a convict, Suu Kyi cannot take part. As a consequence, calls for a boycott are entrenched, and surely those elections will be considered as illegitimate as every other attempt of the junta to assert its authority since the NLD's victory and proscription 21 years ago. If the world's most famous prisoner of conscience is not free to participate, those elections will carry no weight at all, and the unconscionably detached masters of that country will again show themselves for what they are. The only way for Aung San Suu Kyi's country to return to the civilised world is for democracy to be done -- and be seen to be done.

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