(Miri, Friday): Sarawakians should be proud that one of the 18 pro-democracy activists arrested by the Burmese military junta last Sunday is See Chee How, a Sarawakian, who has put the state and country on the world map in the struggle for democracy and human rights.
I call on the Malaysian government not to lag behind Thailand and the Philippines in protecting the interests of their nationals and to intervene decisively with the State Peace and Develoment Council (SPDC) to demand the immediate and unconditional release of See Chee How and two other Malaysians detained by the Burmese authorities, Chong Kok Ywei and Ong Ju Lin, and to ensure that the Malaysian Embassy in Rangoon keeps constant contact with the three and provide them all necessary assistance and representation.
The Malaysian Government must make it very clear to the Burmese military junta that the arrest of 11 ASEAN nations out of the 18 persons for distributing namecard-sized messages of goodwill to the people of Burma is not the act of a regime which believes in democracy and human rights - which should be a standard for all ASEAN governments.
The Malaysian Government should also convey its displeasure at the refusal of the Burmese military junta to accept the visit of a special envoy from the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan especially as the envoy is to be a Malaysian, Tan Sri Ghazalie Ismail, formerly President of the Security Council and Malaysia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The Burmese authorities should be told that this is regarded as an unfriendly and un-ASEAN act, as far as Malaysia is concerned.
The Malaysian Government should also be more vocal and consistent in demanding democratisation in Burma and express its concern at the SPDC's stubborn refusal to open a political dialogue with Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi to pave the way for restoration of democracy and national reconciliation.
Burma is again in the international limelight, not only because of the detention of 18 foreign pro-democracy activists, but also because of the second road-side standoff between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese military junta.
The military junta has again blocked a fresh attempt by Suu Kyi to travel to Pathein township, outside the capital, to meet with members of her political party. The government claimed the journey was "unsafe."
A similar incident in late July led to a six-day standoff that was forcibly ended by government security men. This time, Suu Kyi reportedly has enough food and water for an extended stay.
The Malaysian Government and ASEAN cannot remain silent at the deterioration of the political situation in Burma, especially as Malaysia and ASEAN had justified the admission of Burma into ASEAN as conducive to promoting democracy and human rights in Burma.
The ASEAN Secretary-General Severino should make a special trip to Burma to reason with the Burmese military authorities, not only to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the 11 ASEAN nationals but also to broker a political dialogue between the military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.