Call on Foreign Ministry to investigate into the unprofessional and insensitive conduct of Malaysian embassy officials in Burma over the detention of three Malaysians pro-democracy activists

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Jonson Chong, See Chee How and Ong Ju Ling have done Malaysia proud by their courageous and idealistic act of joining 15 other pro-democracy activists to promote democracy and human rights in Burma and were detained by the Burmese military junta for six days for distributing namecard-sized messages of goodwill to the people of Burma on the 10th anniversary of the 8th August 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

I call on more Malaysians to come forward to take part in the movement to promote  democracy and human rights, whether in Malaysia, Burma or other parts of the world.

I am shocked by the account given by Jonson Chong on the most unprofessional and insensitive behaviour of the Malaysian embassy officials in Burma over the detention of the three Malaysian pro-democracy activists - very unlike the embassies of other nations who were very supportive of their nationals detained by the Burmese military junta.

Malaysia had always lagged behind the Thai and Filipino government on the issues of democracy and human rights in Burma, but it is shameful that Malaysia now even lags behind Indonesia, which had been foremost among ASEAN countries to show support for the release of the 18 pro-democracy activists from six nations.

Jonson Chong complains that out of the six nations with citizens arrested by the Burmese authorities, the Malaysian embassy was the only one which did not bring any provisions for the detainees when they visited.

Jonson Chong said:  "When we met with the Malaysian embassy officials in Rangoon on Tuesday (11.8.98) evening, one of us asked whether any of our family or friends had contacted them.  Instead of giving us a positive answer, we were given an evasive answer and we were asked who our friends were.

"After the Home Ministry of Burma ordered the suspension of the sentence, a Burmese foreign ministry spokesperson asked the embassies of the six nations to arrange for our flight back to our respective nations.  Disappointly, a Malaysian official asked us to make our own arrangements. They only agreed to try to make arrangements for us after we requested them to do so.

" In addition, the embassy did not pass all the messages from our families and friends to us.  When the embassy staff saw us off at the airport, they gave us the lame excuse that they had forgotten to bring the faxes with them.  We are very disappointed with the Malaysian government and the embassy in Rangoon."

The indifference and the insensitivity of the rights and interests of the three Malaysians detained by the Burmese military junta is most deplorable and I call on the Foreign Ministry to cause a full investigations as to why the Malaysian embassy in Burma had failed to give the three Malaysians full assistance and representation.

In fact, I would ask the Malaysian Government to review its policy on Burma and move away from its support and condonation of the draconian and undemocratic regime in Burma and to press the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) for greater democratisation and the opening of a political dialogue with Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

I think the time has come for Malaysians to launch a nation-wide movement to highlight the cause of democracy and human rights and to enlist the support of more Malaysians to this cause.

PD Burma (Promote Democracy Burma),  an international network of political leaders, will meet in Bangkok on August 25 and 26 to consider how to further promote democracy and human rights in Burma.  I am a member of PD Burma and I will attend its annual meeting in Bangkok to discuss the latest developments in Burma.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong