05/19/2009, 00.00
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Indian human rights activists call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Nirmala Carvalho
The second day of the trial of Myanmar’s main opposition leader ended today as appeals for her release multiply. Christian activist raises the “moral question” of governments who promote democracy on one hand and sign deals with the Burmese junta on the other. ASEAN says it is “concerned” for the fate of the prisoners but excludes sanctions as a response.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Human rights activists, Nobel Prize winners and Indian religious leaders are appealing to the international community for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s main opposition leader was arrested by the country’s ruling military junta for breaking the terms of her house arrest. Today is the second day of her trial, which is being held in Yangon under tight security. The third session is scheduled for tomorrow.

In a public statement the leaders of ASEAN nations said that they were “very concerned” about Ms Suu Kyi’s fate, but excluded imposing any economic sanctions against the junta.

For Lenin Raghuvanshi, an Indian activist and director of the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Ms Suu Kyi’s arrest “will have very serious repercussions for the democracy movement in Myanmar” and is a “blatant violation” of human rights.

He urges “India, China and other neighbours of Burma to oppose the military dictatorship and support the non-violent struggle for democracy. [. . .] It is essential for the region,” he added, “to eliminate the atmosphere of terror perpetrated by the military. [. . .] It is a moral issue for Burma’s big trading neighbours who on the one hand support, tacitly or otherwise, the military regime inside Burma, while on the other oppose terrorism.”

A past Gwangju Prize for Human Rights winner, Mr Raghuvanshi noted that the 2009 prize laureate is a Burmese dissident, Min Ko Naing, who got the award for his “struggle for democracy in Myanmar.”

“It is my hope,” he said, that “she and the other 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar prisons be freed soon.”

Sajan George, chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), appealed to the Indian government to “condemn the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi” and call for her “immediate release.”

The Christian activist dismissed the pretext invoked to arrest her as “an exercise in opportunism”. He expressed his wholehearted hope that she might celebrate her birthday on 19 June as a “free citizen of Myanmar”. For this to happen the “Indian government and the international community” must put pressure on the junta.

India, China and other regional powers have developed close trading relations with Myanmar with little or no regard for the junta’s violations of human rights or repression against its own people, many of whom are increasingly going hungry.

Father Anthony, a Jesuit priest in Madurai (Tamil Nadu), was born and lived for ten years in the former Burma.

In his opinion the arrest is designed to reinforce the idea that the military junta has an absolute power over the population, that it can use the iron fist, that people can be arrested arbitrarily, jailed and tortured. In Myanmar he said there is no “freedom of movement and “torture of dissidents and political opponents is commonplace.”

The Jesuits priest said he was afraid that “Aung San Suu Kyi will never be release” until “she is dead or world powers exert such pressure on the junta that they have to free her.”  

Members of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, released an official statement on Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest.

They said they were “seriously concerned” about the situation and demanded she receive adequate medical care, otherwise the “honour and credibility” of the Myanmar government will be at stake.

Thailand, which currently chairs ASEAN, has excluded sanctions against the military regime.

Led by the European Union the international community has called on Myanmar’s largest trading partner China to intervene to have Suu Kyi freed.

But very few people expect Beijing to do anything but uphold its long-standing position that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Yesterday nine Nobel Prize winners, including South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iran’s Shirin Ebadi and Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu Tum, called the trial of Burma’s foremost dissident a “farce”; they also urged the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to bring the matter before the Security Council “as soon as possible.”

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