The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) is to be commended for allowing Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Burma’s Independence Day on Saturday, which is the largest opposition gathering in three months.
It is hoped that this will mark a lifting of the spate of repressive SLORC policies and measures in the past few months. In October, the military government began erecting roadblocks around Suu Kyi's home to prevent her from addressing the thousands of followers who turned out each weekend to hear her speeches promoting democracy and heavily-armed riot police arrested anyone who tried to approach her compound. Last week, the military junta said journalists will not be allowed to meet her there.
ASEAN nations should salvage their “constructive engagement” policy by persuading the SLORC leaders to embark on a path of political reconciliation by entering into a meaningful dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, which won the 1990 general elections, to provide a sound basis for national reconstruction.
SLORC must recognise that Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD are legitimate representatives of the people of Burma and SLORC cannot achieve any meaningful national reconciliation without coming to terms with this political reality.
A Burma firmly placed on the path of national reconciliation, where Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD are able to play a meaningful role in the task of Burmse national reconstruction would make ASEAN proud when she joins as a member. However, ASEAN’s international credibility would be severely damaged if Burma is admitted without any signs of political reforms and national reconciliation with the pro-democracy forces and ethnic minorities.