What little yet spirited hope there was for The Lady’s return was cast aside yesterday as the international media rushed to announce Daw Suu Kyi’s detention had been extended. These are the same words we have been reading for years. It took some time to determine among conflicting reports if her sentence had been extended six months or a year.
The military junta in Burma has been left empowered by Cyclone Nargis. The international community has had to refrain from the obvious circumstances to build a case for the junta’s human rights abuses as three weeks passed before UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon “convinced” the junta to let aid workers in unconditionally. While this is still unlikely to happen to the satisfaction of humanitarian groups it has provided a commanding elevation on the world stage for the junta as we are forced to play by their rules.
Though the destruction from Nargis is not why Daw Suu’s sentence was extended, that would have happened anyways. Still, it cast an even tighter foundation for the junta’s ruthless disregard for any and all diplomatic obstacles with even the slightest appearance of respect for rule of law.
This current extension is in violation of the junta’s own law which states that an individual can not be held without trial for more than five years.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under a 1975 law for “Safeguarding the State from Dangerous Subversive Elements,” which seeks to prevent Acts and deeds endangering the sovereignty and security of the state. In August 1991, the military government amended this law to extend the permissible time period for detention without charge or trial to a maximum of five years, the detention order to be renewed after each year. Previously the limit for detention without trial was three years, the detention order to be renewed every six months.
Nyan Win of the National League for Democracy, has said they plan to appeal.
“if General Than Shwe refuses to release her, it will be a slap on the face of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the ASEAN diplomats who will be at hand to hear the junta’s request for $11 billion of international assistance.”
While this may indeed be a “slap on the face,” that isn’t the issue. As Aung Zaw wrote in the Bangkok Post,
In military-ruled Burma, citizens must be prepared to spend years behind bars for discussing politically sensitive issues. For visiting dignitaries, the penalty is not quite as harsh, but the ban on talking politics is every bit as absolute.During his recent visit to Burma, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was careful to respect the generals’ reticence about any subject that touched upon their claims to legitimacy, lest he leave the country empty-handed.
We can remember the words of Aung San Suu Kyi;
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”