EDITORIAL: Change of heart in Burma
DEMOCRACY got a glimmer of hope this week in Myanmar, but it is perhaps too early to say that the movement has triumphed. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is reason to celebrate, not only for the resilient Burmese people, but also for civil society supporters worldwide.
It coincided neatly with the visit by Dr Irene Khan, former secretary general of Amnesty International, to deliver the 35th Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture on Monday. It is a stark reminder that fundamental human rights are denied almost one-half of mankind despite the 1948 United Nations (UN) declaration.
Unfortunately, there is no international body with teeth to protect and defend breaches of human rights and victims are left to the conscience of other non-governmental organisations. This is a jarring weakness of the UN system The Burmese military junta has been under increasing international pressure to allow more freedom in politics and release Suu Kyi who has been under detention for the past 15 years. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, she best symbolises Burmese opposition to military rule as the world stood by, practically impotent.
Having recently held an election, the first in 20 years, the military rulers’ attempt to show a decipherable transition towards a democratic rule has failed
to make much of an impact. In addition, the boycott of the elections by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy because of her continued detention, made the elections a stage-managed military sham.
What remains to be seen is how Suu Kyi’s release will impact the status quos of thousands of prisoners of conscience still rotting in jail. Hopefully it should generate a momentum that brings some stability and security to the Burmese people and the fulfilment of their long-cherished dream of freedom and democracy.
Given the uncertainty that envelopes Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s continued freedom cannot be guaranteed, it goes without saying that a change is definitely on the cards. Now is the time for the international community to stand behind the fledgling democratic culture taking roots there, and prevail over the junta to bow out in grace.
Suu Kyi, however, took everybody by surprise as she declared her intention to talk to the junta without any ifs and buts. She has shown genuine leadership in the face of humiliation, and demonstrates the statesmanship that lives inside a politician known as the mother of democracy in Myanmar.
By expressing her desire to go to any length to engage the junta for a peaceful transfer of power, Suu Kyi has impressed many supporters at home and abroad.
However, the Nobel laureate within hours after her release has successfully thrown the gauntlet by talking of a peaceful revolution, rather than a mere change of faces in the corridors of power.
It is the kind of hubris that may haunt her after the festival atmosphere following her release from house arrest has died down. Only an evolution of minds can result in a permanent change of heart.