Myanmar’s opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an apparently uninvited visit by an American man.
This is clearly a flimsy excuse to extend her detention, which expires at the end of this month. These latest charges carry a penalty of 5 years imprisonment, which would stretch her detention beyond even the 2010 elections, effectively disqualifying her from contesting it.
She has been under house arrest under the country’s military regime for 11 of the past 19 years in since her party, the National League for Democracy, was elected to power in the last democratic elections in the former Burma.
The United States, European Union and the United Nations have all expressed their unhappiness at these latest developments. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), through Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, has merely expressed “concern” and hopes that “positive steps will be taken”.
This is not enough. Myanmar has clearly violated the recently inked ASEAN Charter, which it is a signatory to. The country’s military regime has contravened several articles of the Charter, including:
Article 1(7): “To strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Article 2(2i): “Respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice”.
Article 5(2): “Member States shall take all necessary measures, including the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation, to effectively implement the provisions of this Charter and to comply with all obligations of membership.”
Myanmar’s continued and unwarranted detention of its people’s democratically elected leader should be considered a case of a serious breach of the Charter. It is therefore appropriate for the matter to be referred to the ASEAN Summit, in accordance with Article 20 of the Charter.
In addition, ASEAN should strongly and unequivocally condemn this behaviour by Myanmar immediately, lest it be seen to be acquiescing to the military junta’s violations of basic human rights.
Singapore, as a founding and influential member of ASEAN, should likewise state its strong condemnation of Myanmar’s behaviour. This is in Singapore’s interest, as not doing so will invite accusations that we and ASEAN are not serious about implementing the principles outlined in the Charter, making a mockery of the entire Charter.
Update @ 2.45pm:
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just released this statement:
“We reiterate the call for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from detention. We are also concerned about recent reports on her poor health, and that the arrest may exacerbate her condition,” the foreign ministry said.
Singapore is dismayed by this latest development. This is a setback for the national reconciliation process.”