(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): ASEAN governments should warn the Burmese military junta of international and regional censure if it imposes a crackdown on pro-democracy activists or take any action against Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, whether against her liberty or security.
The latest news from Burma reports that Burmese police have prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from continuing on a trip she is making outside of the Burmese capital.
The incident began late yesterday when Aung San Suu Kyi was stopped about 80 kilometres north of Rangoon and was asked to return to the capital. However, she insisted on continuing her journey as she was planning to visit one of her political party officials who was elected to Parliament in 1990.
The attempt by the Burmese authorities to restrict the freedom of movement of the Burmese Opposition Leader must be denounced by all right-thinking people in the region and the world.
Malaysia and the other ASEAN Governments should call in the Burmese Ambassadors to seek a clarification of the action of the Burmese authorities and convey in strong and no uncertain terms regional and international concerns over Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety and security.
In the past few weeks, there have been mounting tensions between the military junta and the Burmese Opposition, with the military junta accusing Aung San Suu Kyi of trying to foment an unwanted confrontation on the anniversary of the crackdown on student protesters in 1962.
Recently, after Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon warned that the Burmse military junta and opposition looked to be heading towards a new bout of political confrontation with the deterioration of the atmosphere between the government and the National League for Democracy".
The military junta have blamed the opposition for trying to stir up unrest to coincide with the "forthcoming resumption of the classes of the universities, colleges and other educational institutions".
Authorities in Burma have regularly hinted that universities, closed in December 1996 following student unrest, would reopen only when conditions in the country were deemed stable enough.
The junta last month announced that undergraduate university students were being permitted to sit exams for the first time since the campuses closed 18 months ago. However, university campuses were to remain closed and students would sit their exams at schools around the country.
The NLD however linked the clampdown to its recent demands that parliament, based on the results of a 1990 election won in a landslide by the opposition, be convened before August 21.
The NLD accused the junta of misusing its power and of violating existing laws by arresting opposition members and ordering others to report in daily. It also demanded the revocation of the measures.
The ASEAN Secretariat should set up a ASEAN task force to monitor closely the deterioration of the political situation in Burma and do its utmost to uphold respect for human rights and democratic freedoms in the ASEAN region in general and in Burma in particular.
The Malaysian Foreign Ministry should speak up strongly to ask the military junta to start of a process of democratisation by engaging Aung San Suu Kyi in talks to bring about national reconciliation in Burma.