Mahathir should personally intervene with General Than Shwe to ensure that Razali is given immediate access to Aung San Suu Kyi tomorrow to verify her safety and condition in view of conflicting reports that she had sustained injuries before her re-arrest
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad should personally intervene with General Than Shwe, the head of the Myanmar military junta, to ensure that the United Nations envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail is given immediate access to Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi tomorrow to verify her safety and condition in view of conflicting reports that she had sustained injuries before her re-arrest last Friday.
Access to Suu Kyi should be Razali’s priority agenda when he arrives in Yangon tomorrow as his earlier plan to end the deadlock and kickstart the political dialogue between the military junta and pro-democracy forces had been destroyed by Suu Kyi’s re-arrest and the military crackdown on the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Apart from Suu Kyi’s safety and condition, many questions await answer, chief of which was the circumstances of last Friday’s clash in the north of Burma resulting in her re-arrest and the detention of her supporters, the closure of NLD offices, universities and colleges – whether it was the work of agent provocateurs of the military junta to justify the military crackdown.
The claims by the military junta that Suu Kyi is unhurt and that four people were killed in the clash last Friday have been contradicted by eyewitness accounts that she was injured and that 60 to 80 people were killed last Friday.
It has been reported that Suu Kyi received cuts to the face and shoulder when the window of her car was shattered by a brick before she was taken into “protective custody” by the military junta last Friday, and that she is getting treatment in a military hospital after she was brought to Yangon.
The eyewitnesses to the clash in north of Burma last Friday are now in hiding and fearful of their safety, as the military authorities have rounded up hundreds of people to cover up the incident.
If Razali is unable to have immediate access to Suu Kyi when he arrives in Yangon tomorrow, then he should take the next available flight out of Myanmar as there can be no justification for him to stay an extra minute in Yangon when it could be construed as giving legitimacy to the re-arrest of Suu Kyi, the incarceration of pro-democracy activists, the latest crackdown and the reneging of the military junta’s international commitment to take positive steps to restore democracy and work for national reconciliation in Burma.
In the past six days, the global condemnation of the re-arrest of Suu Kyi and the military crackdown has been conspicuous by the silence of ASEAN and its leaders.
As Mahathir has less than five months left before he steps down as Prime Minister of Malaysia after 22 years in office, he should try to salvage his policy of “constructive engagement with Myanmar” which is virtually in tatters.
In befriending and championing General Than Shwe in the region and the international community, Mahathir had promised the world that this was the best and most sensible approach to wean the Myanmese military junta from its international isolation and bring it back to the mainstream of the global community and civil intercourse.
Such a “constructive engagement” policy has nothing to show however in the past decade – whether from the establishment of a constitutional convention in 1993, Myanmar’s admission into ASEAN in 1997 and the stalled and still-born political dialogue brokered by the United Nations in the past three years.
If Mahathir fails in his personal intervention with Than Shwe to ensure that Razali is given immediate access to Suu Kyi tomorrow, the time has come to admit the total failure of the “constructive engagement” policy and for ASEAN to end its abject and craven silence on the military crackdown in Burma by demanding Suu Kyi’s immediate and unconditional release.
Furthermore, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on June 16-17 should come out with a strong policy declaration favouring democracy, human rights and national reconciliation to make up for the several false dawns in Burma as a result of the failed “constructive engagement” policy.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman