This week, Aung San Suu Kyi, one of Canada’s few honourary citizens, is on trial by the illegitimate junta in Burma for allegedly offending the terms of her illegal house arrest. The world is yet again put to shame by continued and blatant violations of the rule of law and a host of international conventions against one of history’s most heroic fighters for human dignity.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has lived most of the last 18 years under house arrest imposed by the military junta, which has ruled Burma since 1962. She was first arrested after she and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won two-thirds of votes cast in the 1990 election. Her party has been denied access to government and the junta has threatened her life and attempted to crush the democratic movement she continues to lead. The current house arrest resulted after she, during a very brief period of relative freedom, led a peaceful procession in 2003. The junta responded with what the UN Special Rapporteur referred to as “state-instigated massacre,” killing 100 people and injuring many others, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
In the most recent farcical development last week, the regime arrested her again after an American stranger swam across a lake to her home and violated her privacy. Now imprisoned in the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon along with two female companions, Aung San Suu Kyi faces the prospect of five more years of confinement. Given its unspeakable track record, it is no stretch of imagination to suspect that the intruding American was acting under the direction of the junta, which would stop at nothing to thwart the pursuit of the rule of law by the Burmese peoples led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Whatever the reality, she clearly committed no breach of any Burmese law.
It is high time that the international community responded with resolve and principle against the Burmese generals’ continuing violations of the covenants of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN Security Council and the ASEAN governments must act in unity now to put pressure on General Than Shwe and his regime to release Daw Suu Kyi immediately. Canada must stand up and speak up to protect Daw Suu Kyi, one of our own.
In addition, General Than Shwe and his accomplices should be charged with crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.
Every Canadian should be concerned about the well-being of Daw Suu Kyi. We should all demand that our government take action now.
Let’s work to free Aung San Suu Kyi now!
David Kilgour is Canada’s former Secretary of State for Asia/Pacific and the Middle East.