(Penang, Saturday): ASEAN governments must express shock and dismay to the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) at the new crackdown in Burma with the arrest of eight democrats and the preventing of a political meeting by the National League for Democracy (NLD).
The eight democrats, who are members of NLD, the opposition party led by Burma opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, were arrested on the night of 28/29 October 1997, and are feared to be at risk of torture or ill-treatment, common during interrogation in Myanmar.
SLORC arrested eight NLD members -- including the relative of a powerful military leader - connected with the meeting that Suu Kyi was set to hold in Mayangone Township, about 11 km (seven miles) outside Rangoon to organize the party's youth wing.
ASEAN government leaders have disregarded regional and international opinion opposing the admission of Burma into ASEAN on the ground that it would be easier to influence SLORC inside rather than outside the organisation with regard to democratic reforms and to give greater respect to human rights in Burma.
The latest crackdown by SLORC in Burma against the leaders of NLD, which won more than 80 percent of the seats in a 1990 Burmese general elections but the result was never recognized by the SLORC, is the first test case for ASEAN governments in their profession that it is better to have the Burmese military junta inside rather than outside ASEAN.
The eight other ASEAN governments should convey to SLORC their shock and dismay at the latest crackdown in Burma and demand the immediate unconditional release of the eight detainees if they are being held solely for their peaceful political activities; and also to demand that SLORC give a firm undertaking that the eight detainees would be protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment and granted immediate and continuing access to their lawyers, doctors, and family members, in accordance with international standards.