Keep Pressure on Burma

Efforts by the UN and Amnesty International spotlight oppression

DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI, the daughter of the legendary hero of Burma, Gen. Aung San, who led Burma to its independence from the British colonial rule in 1948, has courageously followed the path of her father to obtain what she termed ``the second independence'' for Burma from the military rule of force. She rose to fame during the political upheaval of 1988 when the Burmese army ruthlessly massacred thousands of students, monks, women, children, and others far greater in absolute number and violence than the highly publicized Tiananmen Square massacre by the Chinese army a year later. Her dauntless political campaign, demand for restoration of human rights, and direct indictment of Gen. Ne Win as responsible for the sociopolitical and economic decay of Burma led to her house arrest on July 20, 1989. Passing arbitrary laws against ``freedom of expression and assembly,'' the appropriately named Restoration of Law and Order Council (SLORC) government of Saw Maung has continuously detained, arrested, and sentenced any and all political dissidents.

After arresting all leading opposition leaders (Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, and U Nu), the SLORC held a ``free and fair'' multiparty election on May 27. The people of Burma went to the polls and expressed with ballots their wish that the next legitimate government of Burma be Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The landslide victory of her party in that election has not been recognized.

NLD leaders have been arrested by the SLORC for demanding the formation of a democratic government and transfer of power. This violation of the Article 21 of the UN Declaration of Fundamental Human Rights in not transferring power to a government voted according to the ``wish and will'' of the people of Burma has led to protests by both the Burmese populace and the international community.

The most recent international reaction has come from the UN Human Rights Commission itself. It has engaged an independent expert on human rights, Madam Sadako Ogata of Japan, to probe into the human rights abuses. Her mission was accepted and welcomed by the Burmese delegation to the UN and its leader, Deputy Foreign Minister Gen. Ohu Kyaw, in his speech at the October meeting of the UN General Assembly. She is spending a week in Burma beginning Nov. 4. Her report will be of major interest to various human rights groups around the world. Whether her positive findings will lead to UN sanctions against Burma's military regime and the positive outcome for freedom in Burma remains to be seen.

So far, all indicators point to a continuum of relentless repression of political opposition inside Burma. Even the religious sanction initiated by the senior abbots of Mandalay has been forcefully dealt with by invading their domains, arresting monks and banning organizations. Recent events and actions of the Burmese generals against dissent indicate they have been behaving like the ancient Burmese kings by proclaiming themselves as ``the lawmakers,'' ``the arbiter of the universe,'' and ``the owner of life, head and hair,'' thet-oo sanpine, of their subjects.

Amnesty International will lead a worldwide campaign for the restoration of human rights and democracy in Burma beginning Nov. 7. This should exert further international pressure for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and thousands of political prisoners of conscience from the jails of Myanmar, Burma's new name. The latest news from Myanmar is that the remaining NLD leaders have been forced to sign documents under duress to obey the orders of the military lawmakers or face arrest. The orders include the Catch-22 of drafting a ``perfect constitution'' according to the arbitrary rules of the SLORC, stoppage of demand for power transfer, and formation of a constituent assembly to forestall the flowering of democracy.

Although the political future of Burma looks gloomy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remains the brightest star for the Burmese and a light for all the world.

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