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Disappointment after a glimmer of hope as Suu Kyi’s house arrest is renewed

Updated On: May 30, 2006

In a way, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s renewed house arrest should not surprise anyone, least of all international political observers.

As the United States State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stated, the recent action by the Burmese junta is “yet another sign of the regime’s intransigence and brutal repression”.

However, one cannot blame the international community for hoping. After all, there were promising signs that the junta might have relented. The Associated Press reported Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as saying, “I don't think it is beneficial for Myanmar to keep her indefinitely. One of the best ways is, rather than renew the detention, is to release her… That would give a signal that Myanmar is indeed truly ready to open a new page with the U.N. and (the) international community.” In addition, the junta had also allowed the U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari to meet Suu Kyi, hinting at greater openness to the outside world.

Moreover, the junta had come out recently to say that they “do not view Suu Kyi as a threat”. Police Maj. Gen. Khin Yi told reporters “that her release would have little impact in Myanmar because support for her National League for Democracy had fallen”, Reuters reported. He also said at a Southeast Asian police chiefs' meeting in Kuala Lumpur that he doubted there would be “rallies or riots in Myanmar if Suu Kyi is released” as there were not many of her supporters who remain due to resignation from her party, the National League for Democracy.

This was why the renewal of another year of house arrest was a big disappointment to many, especially Myanmar’s neighbours. Both Thailand and Malaysia expressed surprise at the extension. The Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon told Reuters that he was disappointed as “clearly this was an opportunity for Myanmar to release her”. He added that ASEAN should not stop engaging the junta in talks to relieve the situation. He felt that it was better for ASEAN “to have a door to convey the message, even though we do get disappointed. It's a better option than not speaking.” 

Nonetheless, the world community is hoping that “UN pressure will ease the terms of Suu Kyi’s detention” by allowing her to meet her party’s leadership or more frequent visits by her doctor or other people. She lives alone with her maid, with no telephone, and is allowed only visits by her doctor.

Sources:

UN should continue to engage Myanmar and not punish them, says diplomat (Bernama, 28 May 2006)

UN Pressure could ease terms of Suu Kyi’s detention: analyst (AFP, 28 May 2006)

Myanmar gives Suu Kyi another year of house arrest (Reuters, 27 May 2006)

Malaysia urges Myanmar to free Suu Kyi (AP, 26 May 2006)

Myanmar seeks better ties with outside world –UN (Reuters, 25 May 2006)