FOR the past three weeks, leader of Burmese democratic struggle and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been held captive in what is said o be in the country's most brutal prison by Burma's military junta. Suu Kyi and her supporters were taken prisoners when, on May 30, armed goons of the junta-backed gang, the Union Solidarity and Development Association ambushed and assaulted her party's pro-democracy rally. Rallyists were assaulted, stripped, 40-50 of them killed, while Suu Kyi and other senior leaders suffered injuries and were imprisoned. Reportedly, since, then, Suu Kyi has not even been allowed a change of clothes.
The Burmese military junta had released Suu Kyi from house arrest three months ago, thinking her to be a spent force, and hoping for some perks from Western governments. However, Suu Kyi has been greeted with waves of mass support from Burmese people, reeling under severe economic crises and hardships. Seeing the popular resentment against the regime being channeled by Suu Kyi, and mainly to avoid a repeat of the 1988 pro-democracy upsurge, the junta has cracked down. Shamelessly, the junta claims to have held Suu Kyi for her own “protection”!
Since the '70s, Burma has been in the grip of the brutal military dictatorship which has repeatedly suppressed the vigorous pro-democracy movement in the country. Tens of thousands of villagers in Burma are faced with displacement and repression as the army battles with insurgent groups in the jungle.
Some government functionaries US and UK have voiced their appeals for Suu Kyi's release, but it should be noted that till the cold war lsted, the US had had friendly links with the junta. Even now, they have limited themselves to lip service, toying with only very mild sanctions (and certainly no talk of 'regime change'!) A Western oil company's pipeline is brutally protected by the junta. Even the UN Special Envoy Razali, who met Suu Kyi recently, has a history of taking a “soft approach” towards the military dictatorship.
The military dictatorship enjoys close business links across Asia, and therefore the support of many Asian countries, where Burma refugees eke a fragile existence. Our own Vajpayee Govt. is quiet on Suu Kyi's arrest, not wishing to disturb the close friendship and even military cooperation with the dictatorship on the 'shared' question of 'tackling insurgency'! Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandez seems to suffer from amnesia about his much touted sympathies for the Burmese democratic movement in the past.
Democratic forces in India must extend solidarity to the struggle of Burmese people, and demand the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi.