Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “We cannot say that the court’s decision in Yangon on Friday to keep Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest was a sentence. The judge read a decision that had been written by his bosses. In Myanmar, the law is what military leaders say it is.”
Tint Shwe, a member of the Burmese parliament-in-exile, gives an exclusive interview to AsiaNews about his country’s difficult situation after a court decided last Friday to uphold the 11 August decision to convict Burma’s opposition leader to 18 months of house arrest for letting John Yettaw, a US citizen, enter her house, in violation of the terms of her house arrest.
The conviction has come in for harsh criticism however, in great part because the event was highly irregularly and Aung San was in no way responsible for Yettaw’s visit.
The Nobel Prize laureate, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest, will thus be excluded from running in next year’s parliamentary election.
Right after the sentence, many Indian leaders, include Sonia Gandhi, president of the United Progressive Alliance, signed an appeal for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and 2,100 other political prisoners.
Here is Tint Swe’s comment.
No one was surprised when Aung San’s appeal was rejected. Only her attorney Daw Suu was upset, because the lower court judge’s legal arguments were contrary to the true spirit of the law.
The court itself admitted that the 1974 constitution was no longer valid, yet relied on a 1975 regulation based on the abolished 1974 constitution, to convict her. The appeal court judge upheld the conviction, arguing that it was partly correct. The US citizen [Yettaw] who was clearly guilty of breaking and entering was instead set free.
For a month before the conviction, meetings were held with the United States. Members of the US Congress met representatives of Burma’s pro-democracy opposition, with the leader of the military junta and with Aung San Suu Kyi herself.
What this sentence shows is that once again the regime is quite tolerant vis-à-vis foreigners but fanatically ruthless with its own people. This conviction is not about the law, but about politics.
It tells the international community that it should not underestimate the nature of this military regime. The rejection of the appeal came a few days after Aung San wrote to military leader Than Shwe offering her services to get Western sanctions dropped.
The junta has been trying desperately to have these sanctions lifted. In 2007, the general had suggested that Aung San might be released if she helped in getting the sanctions lifted and would pledge to give up opposing the junta.
Now she publicly and officially expressed her willingness to intervene to get rid of the sanctions, but the judge was ordered to turn down her appeal. In other words, the junta has shown that it fears neither sanctions nor Aung San.
The United States and the United Nations (the Office of the General Secretary General Assembly, Security Council) continue to demand Aung San’s release, but Russia and China continue to oppose their veto against sanctions.
ASEAN countries (which includes Myanmar and other South-East Asian countries) took a step back with regards to calls for the pro-democracy leader’s release.
UN diplomats politely said that the junta lost an opportunity to show that it planned open elections in 2010. For the generals though, this was not an opportunity but a problem to be dealt with, and they are prepared to deal with such problems until next year’s poll.
With the Security Council unable to act because of Russia’s and China’s veto, with neighbours guided by a police of non-interference, with a population oppressed and unable to organise any opposition, the regime has no reason to change.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)